ATM bandit pleads guilty to charges
EAGLE, Colorado – Eric Callaghan is no longer the alleged ATM bandit, he’s the admitted ATM bandit.
Callaghan, dressed in his orange jail jump suit and shackles, stood before District Court Judge Fred Gannett and made his first public pronouncements, admitting that he broke into dozens of ATM machines across Western Colorado.
“To the seven charges, how do you plead?” Judge Gannett asked Callaghan.
“Guilty, your honor,” Callaghan replied, looking down at the handcuffs on his wrists as he stood at the podium in the middle of the courtroom.
“Are your pleas voluntary?” Gannett asked.
“Yes, your honor.”
Gannett determined that Callaghan was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he entered his plea.
And with that, Gannett set sentencing for June 14. Callaghan could serve up to 12 years in prison just on his local charges.
“I was not surprised he pleaded guilty to all seven counts. We had a great case and we’re happy with the outcome. It’s appropriate given the severity of this crime,” said District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.
Callaghan broke into 25 ATMs in Eagle and Summit counties. He’s accused of breaking into 22 more in Grand Junction.
Callaghan’s 35 separate counts in Mesa County are in addition to the seven felonies he pleaded guilty to in Eagle County.
“The Avon police, Vail police and Summit County authorities did a great job,” Hurlbert said. “We get good police work in this area. Cases like this show what good police officers we have and that they’re willing to work together. They don’t compete with each other. They want to get the job done and catch the people who commit the crimes.”
“It was tenacious, collaborative policing by all the agencies involved,” said Lt. Greg Daly with the Avon Police Department. “We weren’t letting go of this. We did not want any more of these burglaries to happen to any more as our citizens. He was a sophisticated serial burglar who was able to avoid capture for a long period of time.”
Greg Daly, Avon Detective Jeremy Holmstrom and Avon Detective Sgt. Jonathan Lovins were all part of a multi-agency team that caught Callaghan using “sophisticated police tools,” they said.
Callaghan’s arrest capped his two-year series of burglaries in Eagle, Summit and Mesa counties.
Early on, police agencies had had enough. They formed a collaborative task force to investigate.
Callaghan’s most unique burglary might have been last April at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain. He hit the ATM and barely dodged Vail security, who was on the scene in moments.
He escaped by riding a snowbike off the mountain, police said.
But it was that last Avon burglary that got him caught. Daly, Holmstrom and Lovins recounted the arrest this way:
Callaghan used two grinders to break into an ATM, then threw them in the trash behind the building.
Officer Yvonne Ramirez, as part of her crime scene investigation, looked into a Dumpster at the rear of the business and spotted the grinders.
Holmstrom packaged them for forensic investigation. They started looking around for places that sold power tools and found their way to Wal-Mart.
Holmstrom worked with Wal-Mart’s manager and asset protection manager, and they figured out that Callaghan paid cash for the grinders about 3 a.m. Nov. 19, minutes before his last burglary.
Callaghan showed up at Wal-Mart in a taxi, purchased the grinders with cash, came out and got in the same taxi. He was wearing a hoodie, a beanie cap pulled down low over his eyes, and a bright green jacket.
Through the cooperation of the taxi company, they got a phone number. But it was a pre-paid phone. You buy them, load them with some calling minutes, use it, then throw it away.
In the meantime, when the business that was the site of Callaghan’s last caper opened at 9 a.m., they discovered the ATM had been robbed and called the police.
The police got a search warrant for the phone, and that got them the phone’s history and what phone numbers had been called.
They also learned that the phone was in Nebraska, as was Callaghan, they learned.
On Thanksgiving night Daly rang the police chief in that small Nebraska community. He was the only officer on duty, so he went to the location and ran the license plates on the car.
When they learned who lived there, they went to Facebook. That enabled them to link the phone to Callaghan.
They figured out Callaghan was back in Colorado, and put him under surveillance.
“We tried to keep this as quiet as possible,” they said. “After you do an investigation this long you don’t want to tip your hand.”
Callaghan was acting suspiciously, doing either counter surveillance maneuvers, selecting another target or trying to get out of town.
They decided it was time to move.
When they contacted Callaghan at a local hotel, he had a carry-on size bag with him. Callaghan voluntarily came to the Avon police department for what they called a “comprehensive” interview.
They applied for a warrant to search the bag and while two of them were conducting the interview, the third searched that bag.
In that bag they found an ATM drawer from one of his first burglaries. He kept it as both a souvenir and as a practice tool, they said.
That was all they needed to know. They informed him they were aware of his activities.
“We informed him the game was up,” Daly said.
Callaghan actually acted surprised at the news.
When Grand Junction police investigators interviewed him the next day, he wasn’t quite as surprised.
It took nearly two years to catch him, they said. Callaghan’s burglary spree cost more than $100,000 in lost cash and damages.
“It was a great example of collaborative policing in this county,” Daly said. “It was a 24-hour job for about two weeks solid.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.