ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The string of ATM thefts north of Anchorage continued Saturday night when thieves stole more than $16,000 from a machine inside a Wasilla liquor store and the store's cash registers.
Burglars disconnected the alarm and phone systems around 11:30 p.m. at Knik Kountry Liquor, about a half hour after the store closed, said owner Duane Hart.
They crawled under the block foundation and sawed through the 1.5-inch wood floor to enter the store. Once inside, they not only sawed into the store's automated teller machine and grabbed the big pile of cash but also stole about a dozen bottles of fine wine.
ATMs north of Anchorage have been targeted by thieves at least 10 times in the past two years. No one has ever been caught.
Several machines have been ripped out of walls and smashed without the cash drawer being penetrated. Thieves have tripped alarms and been spooked by passersby and police sirens.
Previously, thieves targeted machines in Willow, Big Lake and Eagle River. The only prior success occurred in September, when burglars carted off the ATM from a Willow gas station in a stolen sport utility vehicle. The machine and SUV were recovered but the cash had been removed.
Hart said there was no dragging of the ATM at his store.
''They totally cut it apart where it stood,'' Hart said. ''They knew exactly where the cash tray was before they started cutting.''
Hart said the burglars got away with $16,400 from the ATM and the registers plus the store's best bottles of wine, priced at between $75 and $140 each. The ATM, valued at about $8,000, was destroyed.
A store employee found the damage when she came in at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The store was closed part of Sunday while repairmen fixed the alarm, phones and floor but is now operating as usual, minus the ATM.
Hart said insurance will not cover all the damage. He does not expect to replace the cash machine, which he installed four years ago as a convenience to customers.
''I can't see that I can afford to put up another one,'' said Hart, whose two other Wasilla-area stores also have ATMs.
Hart is offering a reward for information leading to a conviction.
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