Serious Withdrawal

Late-night robberies. High-tech heists. Coercions, confessions and cover-ups. It's just business as usual at a Phoenix ATM company.

Doyle wants to prove that he is no thief, and he may be right. Other former co-workers have come forward claiming that they, too, have been falsely accused. One of Doyle's ex-bosses even says that some in Elyte management wanted to force Doyle out. And Doyle's partner has since taken back all of his accusations against Doyle, claiming that he had been pressured by Elyte interrogators to say that his partner was responsible for the burglary.

In the process of pleading his own case, Doyle is breaking the code of secrecy that rules the young and vulnerable ATM servicing business, exposing a largely unregulated industry that moves billions of dollars each day, and revealing the practices of a Phoenix company that has taken advantage of that secrecy. Elyte's internal records, in conjunction with police reports, videotapes and interviews with former staffers, outline a climate of dishonesty at Doyle's old workplace, ranging from wave after wave of inside heists to alleged efforts by Elyte investigators to cover them up, while coercing accusations and confessions out of their colleagues.

Doyle was not the only one to be unjustly accused of pilfering fast cash from ATMs in the Valley. But maybe, he says, if he can set the record straight, he will be the last.

Techs, lies and videotape: As part of his duties at Elyte, Kieran Doyle often made secret tapes of ATM technicians and guards at work.
Techs, lies and videotape: As part of his duties at Elyte, Kieran Doyle often made secret tapes of ATM technicians and guards at work.
False sense of security: Kieran Doyle, a former security guard at Elyte ATM Services, says thefts and cover-ups were common currency at his old job.
Annette Callahan
False sense of security: Kieran Doyle, a former security guard at Elyte ATM Services, says thefts and cover-ups were common currency at his old job.

From the day he was accused, Doyle wasn't about to be the bad guy. Before walking away, he copied dozens of incident reports made while he was investigating cash losses at the ATMs that Elyte technicians were emptying and refilling.

The reports reveal a flood of ATM thefts, most of them found to be inside jobs. The rash of lost money came at a time when Elyte was one of the largest providers of ATM services in the state, contracting with local credit unions, Bank One and Bank of America.

After picking up millions of dollars from these financial institutions every morning, Elyte would send its technicians out in unmarked Nissan pickup trucks with bulletproof windshields, some of them packed with nearly $1 million each. Their routes covered hundreds of ATMs across the Valley that received a regular "sweep and balance," cleaning out the deposited money and refilling the dispenser with cash. ATM service providers like Elyte were paid per ATM, per service.

But too often, reports show, technicians would sweep and balance the bank's money into their own pockets, which the company had to replace.

"We're not in a position to divulge any kind of statistics. . . regarding thefts or losses," says Dennis Bassi, an attorney representing Elyte. "It's counterproductive to our business, as well as it violates our confidentiality agreements we have with our customers. All I can tell you, really, is that my personal experience was that we had no problems that I would judge to be unusual."

Public records show otherwise. New Times has reviewed police records from Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, Phoenix and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department on recent thefts from companies servicing ATMs. The reports expose a theft problem at Elyte that was out of control. ATMs were getting hit month after month, sometimes at the same machine. From March 1997 to last February, Elyte ATMs or their technicians were robbed 20 times. But that doesn't include the losses that Doyle and other ex-employees say went intentionally unreported to the police, so as not to jeopardize Elyte's bank contracts.

With armored-car carriers charging around $50 for every visit to an ATM, one bank contract could bring in thousands of dollars a week.

Of course, the problem of theft is not entirely unique to Elyte. Lost money is the bane of all armored car carriers. Just how much money is stolen from ATMs each year is uncertain, however, since neither law enforcement nor the industry tracks those losses. But the problem at Elyte, experts say, is part of a bigger predicament that comes along with the ever-growing number of ATMs -- an explosion in low-paid, substandard security firms that leave their workers and ATMs vulnerable to theft.

"My sense is that most ATMs are not serviced by armored-car companies," says John Margaritis, secretary of the Independent Armored Car Operators Association, a trade group that denied membership to Elyte a few years ago. "Many ATM service providers are operating out of their wife's minivan."

Lots of ATM companies, including Elyte, he adds, are not tracked by trade groups because they do not meet industry standards for armored-car carriers.

But standards have meant less to banks than the bottom line, critics say. With more than 1,500 ATMs to load in Arizona every day, banks have sought the cheapest money haulers they could find. Companies like Elyte, with their semi-armored pickups and $9-an-hour guards, have filled that bill.

"It's really between the contractor and whoever is going to provide the service," Margaritis says. "There's no law. There's no standard. There's nothing like that."

The result is an unfettered industry in which ATM servicing companies have free rein to handle money -- and employees suspected of stealing -- any way they wish.

Whoever was pulling off the Elyte heists was slick. Gobs of cash, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars at a time, were lifted, James Bond-style. No signs of forced entry. No alarms set off. Just quick hits using the company's keys and codes to get in the ATM vault and out in minutes.

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Elyte ATM and security has commited crimes and covered up evidence. There is obviously a serious history to theft in the organization. They should lose their state licenses and be shut down. Elyte Services LLC has started a security company in Albuquerque New Mexico where they have already been sued twice this year. Enough is enough. These crooks need to go to jail.

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