A single person using the change machine at the Southwyck Laser Wash popped up multiple times on surveillance cameras over a period of a few days.
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Approximately 4,000 missing quarters later, police arrested Charles Sylvester Young, of Durham, North Carolina, and charged him with stealing from the car wash.
Young is accused of using some sort of electronic device to make the machine give up coins starting Feb. 4.
Police arrested Young, 56, on Feb. 6 during a traffic stop in the area of the car wash and he admitted to using “an electronic device to remove money from the dollar bill/change unit,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Danville General District Court.
He is charged with two counts of larceny, two counts of possession of burglary tools, driving with a revoked license and possession of marijuana.
The fact that Young is reported to have used a handheld electronic device to break into the machine is new to Danville, Lt. Richard Chivvis said. It is not something the police department has dealt with before.
“We are used to seeing vending machines being broken into with a crowbar and a hammer,” he said. “It was an odd situation.”
Young “placed the device up to the money slot and was given the change in return,” the complaint reads. Two filed complaints state that Young took around $600 in quarters, but Chivvis said that more was taken. Most of the quarters, he said, have been recovered.
Chivvis said he did not know what type of device was used or how it worked. He also noted that the suspected theft took place over a number of days and that the machine did not disgorge coins like a winning slot machine when it was hacked.
“It was a little more covert,” he said, “it did not look like he just won it big at the lotto or casino.”
Officers were able to arrest Young because the car wash’s owner carefully checked the machine’s balance and kept it under video surveillance, Chivvis said. Keeping an eye on vending machines and checking the cash they take in and put out is the best way business owners can prevent that type of crime. The cameras, Chivvis said, greatly helped investigators draw a bead on Young.
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“That gentleman’s investment in surveillance equipment paid off,” Chivvis said. “We want business owners to be aware and vigilant.”
Police report that Young has committed similar crimes in other jurisdictions and Danville police are cooperating with other law enforcement agencies, Chivvis said.