Stolen ATM machines found buried beneath a Clovis business

CLOVIS, Calif.

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Three businesses had their ATMs stolen in smash and grab burglaries earlier this year. The thieves hit a convenience store on Shields and Armstrong. The Fort Washington Country Club and Blackbeard's Family Entertainment Center were also hit.

Working off an anonymous tip Fresno police had to dig about 8 feet into the ground inside an industrial building at 1146 Barstow.

"I think it's really crazy, you know," said Paul Arora. "I don't know why people would take that kind of chance."

Arora works for the owners of a gas station convenience store on Shields and Armstrong, which was the scene of a smash and grab ATM burglary January 1.

Security footage shows the burglar smash a truck into the store, and then tie a rope to the machine, which was then dragged out of the store. "I don't think it's worth it for $300," Arora said.

On Wednesday, Fresno police were tipped off that ATMs were buried in Clovis, a month after detectives had served a previous warrant based on a similar tip. "The hole at [that] time was buried, it was covered with a desk, there was a wall over it," said Fresno police Sgt. Mark Hudson. "So we weren't able to find the items."

But this time, the discarded loot was not as covered up. Police said a 2x3 portion of the concrete floor was missing. So, they dug and dug until they found the smashed ATMs. Fresno police said the man who stole and buried the ATMs is 29-year-old James Ward of Fresno. Ward was the previous tenant at the shop.

Arora said his bosses still aren't sure if either of the ATMs are theirs, but he told Action News that is not their biggest concern.

"It's not even about the money, it's about our safety," Arora said. "Somebody had the courage to do that, break the whole store, during the night, they can do it during the daytime. We're worried about our lives."

Police are still trying to figure out which of the three stores the two ATMs belong to. Detectives are comparing serial numbers to identify them.

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