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Thieves Targeting Cash Inside Gaming Machines at Multiple South Side Bars

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Bar owners on Des Moines' south side are warning bar owners across the metro to be on the lookout for gaming machine thieves. They say the criminals are targeting multiple bars a night and they're getting away with hundreds of dollars in cash.

James Besler, owner of the Thirsty Sportsman, says thieves broke into his dart machine and stole a couple hundred dollars from it on Monday evening.

Besler says this is the second time his business has been targeted, each time the criminals stealing while during business hours. He said he noticed a couple acting suspiciously at a machine towards the back of the bar but did not confront them.

“You don’t suspect people. You try to assume people are not trying to steal from you,” he says.

The same couple was seen on surveillance breaking into a machine at Quijano’s Bar and Grill about an hour earlier.

Jon Quijano says his seven surveillance cameras caught the crooks in the act, stealing $800 from a ticket machine. He  said the couple was acting suspicious, describing the woman in the picture covering up what the man was doing. Quijano says the surveillance video shows the man breaking into the machine with a crow bar and cutting off the padlock.

“Once they left, I grabbed the machine and the front fell open, wide open. They were long gone by that time,” says Quijano.

At least three bars within a five-mile radius of one another tell Channel 13 they were targeted Monday evening. The loss of income not only impacts bar owners but also gaming vendors.

Seam Stanford works for the machine vending company, The Companies. He calls the recent rash of thefts a headache.

“We’re a mom and pop business. When they steal and brake into our machines that affects my paycheck. I wish they would catch these guys but not yet.”

Since our story aired, two more bar owners have reported their gaming machines being broke into.

Police do not have anyone in custody. If you have information contact the Des Moines Police Department.