Man pleads guilty to college ATM theft

BOISE, Idaho (AP) A Las Vegas man targeted at least 21 ATM machines in western states as part of a crime spree involving the theft of $124,000 in cash and tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the equipment, a federal prosecutor said.

Clarence Edward Lancaster, 57, appeared in U.S. District Court in Boise on Monday and pleaded guilty to one count of bank larceny after authorities said he pried open an ATM on a college campus in Twin Falls.

As part of his deal with prosecutors, he acknowledged other ATM thefts from June 2012 through January 2013, in Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Oregon and Arizona, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a press release following the plea.

The thefts involved some $124,000 in U.S. currency, $88,000 in damages caused to the machines, and $3,600 in property damage to buildings and equipment.

Lancaster was arrested in Arizona on Jan. 21 after a music instructor at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher saw a man walking toward an area in a closed building where an ATM machine was located.

The instructor, who was rehearsing with students in the building closed for the Martin Luther King holiday, recorded the man's license plate and turned it over to police. Lancaster was later stopped and arrested in his Cadillac Escalade.

From there, it took some electronic sleuthing to link him to other the thefts, authorities said.

The FBI geographically tracked his banking transactions and matched the dates and locations with ATM theft reports, Olson said.

In an interview conducted by a Boise FBI agent and an Eastern Arizona College police officer, Lancaster acknowledged ATM thefts that included machines at Idaho State University in Pocatello and Boise State University, Olson said.

Lancaster could spend as long as 10 years in prison and pay a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to prying open the machine on the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls in July 2012.

As part of the plea agreement, he also could be required to pay restitution of $216,000 when he is sentenced in January.