Attempted bank machine thefts in Ashton, Morrison, may be connected to larger ring

Although not yet confirmed, police say it appears they may be part of a trend of bank machine thefts

Lee County deputies are on the hunt for the thief or thieves who stole this pickup Sunday in Franklin Grove, and used it to pull the ATM machine from the wall at Central Bank Illinois in downtown Ashton around 2 a.m. A similar theft was attempted three hours later in Morrison; those suspects also still are at large.

Law enforcement in two counties are looking for whoever tried to break into teller machines early Saturday in Lee and Whiteside counties.

Although not yet confirmed, it appears the attempts may be part of a trend of bank machine thefts that have been happening throughout the state for the last year or more, according to police.

In Lee County, sheriff’s investigators are looking for the person or people who stole a truck from Franklin Grove and used it around 2 a.m. to yank an ATM machine from the wall outside Central Bank Illinois in downtown Ashton.

Meanwhile, Morrison police are investigating damage done around 5 a.m. to another machine at Farmers National Bank, 1100 E. Lincolnway.

Deputies responding to an alarm at the Ashton bank, 803 Main St., found an abandoned white extended-cab pickup truck with a chain attached to the ATM at the scene, the sheriff’s office said in a news release Monday.

No cash was taken, Deputy Chief Derek Ranken said Tuesday.

The thieves were caught on the machine’s camera, and “looked like they knew what they were doing. This wasn’t their first rodeo,” said Jeff Glen, the bank’s market president for the Rochelle, Oregon and Ashton region.

They escaped on foot, and on camera it looks like they may have been picked up by others in another vehicle, Glen said, adding that it will be weeks before the bank is able to replace the machine, which was damaged beyond repair.

He declined to provide further details, referring the matter to investigators.

Ranken confirmed that the thieves were well aware of the cameras and covered their faces.

Morrison Police Chief Pedro Valladares Jr. said Tuesday that the potential thief or thieves damaged FNB’s ITM machine but did not dislodge it, and no cash was taken.

The ITM, an interactive machine that can remotely connect users with a teller and that has multiple cameras, was back in operation by Tuesday afternoon, FNB’s Community President Doug Vanderlaan said.

Given the location of the machine, it’s not likely there will be other surveillance footage available, but the investigation is still young, Valladares said.

A similar theft happened about 3:45 a.m. Aug. 4 at Old Second National Bank in Warrenville in Dupage County, where a stolen white pickup truck and a chain were used to pull an ATM machine from the wall, according to online reports.

The suspects, who are shown in surveillance video wearing black hoodies and faces masks, fled in a 2023 gray Ford Escape. The FBI is investigating.

About 1:35 a.m. March 22 in Rochelle, thieves also used the same type of truck to pull an ATM machine at Rock Valley Credit Union, Rochelle Police Detective Elvis Baneski said Tuesday.

They did make off with some cash, he said.

It’s all part of an ongoing pattern of thievery.

In talking with an insurance company for the credit union, Baneski said he learned that “several hundreds of claims” in “multiple similar incidents” have been filed up and down the state. Organized theft rings from the Chicago area and out of state are suspected to be involved.

“The people responsible have a specific make and model [of vehicle] they seek out,” Baneski said.

It’s a type that’s easy to steal, Ranken said.

An email sent Tuesday afternoon to the FBI’s Chicago field office seeking more information has not yet been returned.

Ranken and Valladares declined to release further information, citing the ongoing investigations.

Investigators ask for public’s assistance

In Lee County, investigators are asking anyone with information or surveillance footage to call 815-284-6631 or Lee/Ogle Crimestoppers, the anonymous reward hotline, at 888-228-4488. Use case number 7997.

In Whiteside County, the Crimestoppers number is 815-625-7867; Morrison police can be reached at 815-772-7650.

Crimestoppers does not ask for tipsters’ names and does not have caller ID. Tips leading to an arrest are eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Information also can be provided to the FBI at 312-421-6700 or at tips.fbi.gov.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.