There’s a possible big break in the scores of smash-and-grab ATM robberies now that two convicted felons are in custody.
The men were arrested Friday for just two of the brazen ATM thefts, but the King County prosecutor say they’re suspects in a total of 60 such thefts across the county.
In one case, the damage was so great that the business closed shop.
Police say the men rammed a vehicle into the 76 Gas Station there 10 days ago. It happened on May 5 at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Plywood covers the door where the crooks drove the truck into the building.
But they stole more than an ATM filled with money.
“You know it’s a relief,” said Prashant Verma. “It’s, it’s satisfying.”
Verma welcomes news of the arrests in the smash-and-grab robbery that has haunted his family since it happened on May 5.
“But at the same time what about the damage (that) has been done?” asked Verma. “What about the mental stress that it caused for new business owners like us on that day and even leading up to this day?”
That day they arrived to discover a pick-up truck had rammed into this business they have owned for just nine months, the ATM loaded with thousands of dollars stolen.
The same brazen theft happened five days later, some five miles away at the QT Market in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood.
Then on Friday, a break in the cases.
Police arrested two men at the Extended Stay Hotel in Tukwila where they were living in separate rooms. Thirty-three-year-old Branden Christopher Cerna and 30-year-old Stanley Lee are suspected in what could total some 60 smash-and-grab ATM robberies across King County.
“We want people to see exactly what the King County prosecutors are doing, which is holding these people accountable,” said spokesman Casey McNerthney. “And we’re gonna keep doing that even as the investigations come in over weeks and months going forward.”
The May 10 robbery proved too much for the owner of the QT Market. She closed her business the very next day.
“Business-wise, you know, we keep moving forward,” said Verma. “And we have to keep our chin up.”
Verma says they have since repaired the broken wall, replaced the ATM, and got their computerized system back online.
But the trauma remains.
“And I’m sure I can relate to all the other business owners that have been in this situation as well,” he said. “And it’s not easy.”
As for the men in custody, both have several felony convictions.
The King County prosecutor now says they plan to “rush file” this case, meaning charges could be forthcoming early this week.
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