Inside the investigation as smash-and-grab ring sentenced

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I TEAM has learned a snag at the scene of a crime, fingerprints, and ultimately confessions helped lead investigators to bust a ring of smash and grab thieves targeting ATMs.

Thursday, 5 thieves got sentenced to prison terms ranging up to 18 years.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors tied the crew to about 20 cases. But investigators believe the same crooks could be to blame for dozens more.

Cleveland Police detective Aaron Reese led the investigation. He said in one case a stolen ATM had six-figures worth of money inside.

Judge Brendan Sheehan said at the sentencing, “It’s organized. It’s planned. It’s down to a science.” The judge asked the thieves about the money they made and where it was spent, but he got only vague answers.

Security video from one smash-and-grab shows the thieves struggling to move propane tanks and more out of the way before they could ram a van into a store. Prosecutors say the snags in that case helped in building evidence against the group.

Another organized group of ATM thieves will be going on trial in the near future.