Serial ATM bombers may be on the loose in Florida, officials say

Three explosions at ATMs in the Tampa area since November appear to be linked, authorities say, and a blast on Sunday resulted in cash being stolen.

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By Tim Stelloh

Authorities in Florida are investigating a series of ATM explosions that appear to be linked, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

The latest explosion, which targeted a drive-up cash machine at a Regions Bank in the Tampa suburb of Valrico, occurred overnight Sunday, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

The statement said it wasn't clear how much money was taken. Speaking to reporters Monday, Sheriff Chad Chronister said the explosion was caused by a "bomb-type device," NBC affiliate WFLA of Tampa reported.

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A 'bomb-type device' was used to detonate an ATM in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Chronister said the incident appeared to be connected to two previous ATM explosions — one at a Pilot Bank in Tampa in December and another at a BB&T Bank in Oldsmar, a Tampa suburb, in November.

The thief couldn't gain access to the machines' internal safes, and no money was taken in those incidents, the sheriff's office said last month.

"Now that he's finally accessed some cash, that's certainly what I'm afraid of," Chronister told reporters, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "How sophisticated, how experienced is this individual, and where does he go from here? We need to get this individual to make sure there's no more threat to public safety."

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Before two of the explosions, a person spray-painted bank surveillance cameras black — a tactic that could be connected to three earlier incidents of ATM "tampering," the sheriff's office said later Monday.

One spray-paint incident occurred at a J.P. Morgan Chase branch in Tampa in December. The same Regions Bank that was targeted Sunday was tagged twice before — once in July and again in September.

Two men, both wearing black masks, were photographed in the July incident at Regions Bank.

There were no explosions and no money was taken during the vandalism incidents, which the sheriff's office also described as "criminal mischief."