Sheriff's investigators arrested a Tustin man whom they suspect of stealing as many as 24 automated teller machines from small businesses across Orange County.
Daniel Eamon Sweeny, 40, of Tustin was arrested Sunday while driving a stolen car in Mission Viejo, said Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators allege that Sweeny has removed ATMs from businesses for the last year, using lifting equipment and sometimes chains attached to vehicles.
He is suspected of stealing a machine from inside a Laguna Niguel business in February, Hallock said. A vehicle description was obtained and a patrol deputy made a traffic stop, which led to a short pursuit. The suspect ran away, eluding capture.
But forensic evidence recovered in the case linked Sweeny to the vehicle, authorities said.
Investigators tracked his movements for several weeks and saw him driving around in early mornings, apparently casing commercial buildings as possible targets for thefts, Hallock said.
On Sunday, investigators saw Sweeny get behind the wheel of a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee, officials said. They arrested him for investigation of possessing stolen property.
Detectives then gathered more evidence with the aid of search warrants
Sweeny was booked into the Orange County jail on suspicion of possessing stolen property. He was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Hallock said investigators are examining two dozen ATM thefts with a similar modus operandi to present the case to prosecutors.
Follow @lacrimes for breaking news.