It’s a heist that would make Danny Ocean proud. In a stunningly brazen theft that even the police admit is “completely unprecedented,” a group of conmen is said to have used a DJI Mini drone to steal $147,000 (150,000 euros) from an ATM in the French city of Reims.
While the incident took place in broad daylight this summer, it was highlighted by French media only last week.
According to a report in Le Journal De Dimanche, an ATM located outside a branch of French cooperative banking group Caisse d’Epargne was robbed on May 22. What was strange about the crime was that the police found no trace of a break-in; neither the safe nor the entrance door of the premises showed any signs of vandalism.
The police did notice, however, that the air vent of the room appeared damaged, but that space was too tiny to accommodate a person.
What the police did not know at the time is that that space was more than sufficient to accommodate a small drone.
When the CCTV footage of the ATM was reviewed, a mini drone was immediately detected. The video showed a skillfully piloted aircraft being used to trigger a push button that would open the door of a technical room next to the ATM.
As soon as the door opened, “several strangers entered this room and managed to open the cash box by dialing in a secret code that is typically known only to the couriers who are in charge of transporting the cash.”
The thieves quickly seized as much as $147,000 before fleeing from the scene. All in all, the robbery lasted less than 10 minutes.
“To locate the push button, the perpetrators used a telescopic pole equipped with a mirror,” a source close to the investigation told Le Journal De Dimanche. “This is the first time that we have witnessed such use of a drone to rob a bank ATM.”
Further investigation revealed that one of the thieves had previously worked as a mechanic for a company that maintains the ATM. It also became known that the secret codes of the cash machines were not changed frequently enough to thwart such an incident.
Nonetheless, the good news is that two men connected to the heist have now been arrested by the police.
On September 25, after the drone-assisted ATM theft came to light, a public prosecutor in Reims organized a press conference and offered the details of the case.