Serious Withdrawal

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

When Apodaca arrived, setting down just four $20 bills in the back of their opened van, the security men became irate, jabbing at him with demands to know where the stack of money was and how he spent it.

"Now you've come up here and you don't know where the money is. That's bull," says Elyte investigator Pete Golden, pointing the camera at Apodaca, who stares at them blankly, his mouth hanging open. "You've made a fool out of both of us tonight. . . . I'm not taking my eyes off of you until I see the money or I see you in handcuffs going to jail tonight."

Apodaca may have picked $20 bills from some machines, but he did not take the $5,000 the security team was looking for. Two days after the interrogation in the Circle K parking lot, Elyte discovered that the missing $5,000 was a paperwork error.

Mark Poutenis

The recording confirms what Doyle is trying to prove, he says: that Elyte often goes after employees with little hard evidence.

More important, the videotape reveals how the company tried to keep its internal stealing secret to avoid losing its contracts with banks. After Golden finished grilling Apodaca outside of the Circle K, Snyder showed up and took over the interrogation, explaining why it was so important that Apodaca cooperate with them, turn over the missing money, and let Elyte executives handle the alleged theft.

"They don't like to call the cops," Snyder says about Elyte on videotape. "They don't want the banks, our customers, knowing that [money is missing]. And I'll tell you why, because, quite frankly . . . if you owned Elyte, would you want the bank to know that you had people taking it from within?"

Snyder no longer works at Elyte and could not be reached for this story. Asked if Elyte reported ATM thefts to police and the bank, Bassi, Elyte's attorney, would not comment at length, again citing confidentiality agreements with the banks that the company serves.

"In my experience, there was no impropriety, if that's what you're getting at," he says. "All we would do is look for compliance with our internal procedures for the safety of our crews, and whether all procedures had been followed because, really, procedures are all you have, and there was no impropriety of any kind."

Meanwhile, the robberies and the questionings continued at Elyte, and they were taking their toll on the staff.

"They pulled me in one day and accused me of stealing from various machines," says Terry Murphy, a private investigator who signed on with Elyte after he couldn't find work in California. "They said I had a gambling problem. They were seeing if I would crack."

Elyte's interrogators were testing different motives, he says, then decided that he was trying to save a large enough nest egg to impress his wife when she got her U.S. citizenship and could leave Canada to be with him. "The cops were called. They named me as a suspect, put my gun in a bag and made me take off my [company] shirt," he says. "I was in tears at that point."

Murphy was suspended, and he soon quit. "Any criminal would have been better treated than that," he says. Snyder told him Elyte would audit all the machines on his route, but Murphy never heard from Elyte again. When he called the company back to get the results of the audits, he turned on his tape recorder and was told they turned up no missing money on his routes after all.

Russ Koleski remembers being directed to a small room for what he thought was his 30-day job review. Instead, Elyte security staff wanted to know how much his mortgage was and how he could afford his house, which he told them he paid for out of a 401K retirement plan. They wanted to know if his wife worked and what his car payments were, since he drove a newer Ford Taurus. "I said [to Snyder], 'You have a Corvette,'" Koleski recalls. "He said, 'You're getting defensive.'"

After a while, the interrogations left him and other technicians feeling like they were defending themselves rather than the money they were transporting. Koleski was sick of it. "I was physically and mentally ready to go," he says.

But technicians weren't the only ones leaving Elyte. Harry Wheaton left his post as executive vice president of operations within eight months, particularly troubled, he says, by the unsolved and unreported thefts. He was one of the managers, he adds, who was routinely sent to quickly and quietly handle the company's mysterious ATM shortages.

"I met [Elyte executives] at many of them," he says. "It was my feeling that you call police immediately." But the cover-ups, in addition to the regular interrogations and accusations, made him uncomfortable. "They've ruined a lot of lives down there. That's why I'm not there."

Elyte employees didn't usually stick around long, and the company wanted it that way, adds Richard Liss, an ATM technician who after three years with Elyte would be considered an old-timer. "If you were there six, eight months, you were there too long," he says. "You already knew too much. You knew your route, you knew the inner workings of the company. You were a threat to the company."

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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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