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Clerk: Stolen cash wasn't from gaming machines

By Seth Burkett
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2355

Money stolen from a Decatur convenience store Monday didn't come from gaming machines inside the store, but from the register, an employee said.

"The money was the previous day's collection from the register inside the store," clerk Chris Bandaru said Tuesday.

While Bandaru was in the back of the store, three men allegedly took $7,000 hidden in a cigar box behind the counter at Snackers, 1024 Somerville Road S.E.

"I kept that money for check cashing. That's why I didn't deposit it in the bank," Bandaru said.

Bandaru said the store cashes checks for regular customers without any fee and that he kept an unusual amount of money on hand to cash tax-refund checks.

He denied allegations by a Decatur police detective that the money was used for cash payouts on winning tickets from game machines.

"We don't make cash payouts. We offer them soda or chips, some groceries inside the store," Bandaru said.

"(The police) didn't ask about any games or anything. I don't know how they said that."

Bandaru said thieves could have learned where he kept the money after seeing him cash a check for someone.

"I can't say they are regular customers, but they used to come to the store maybe twice a week or once a week and they might have seen that I cash checks and where I keep the money," Bandaru said.

Sgt. Rick Archer said he believes thieves learned the location of the money by receiving cash prizes from the box.

Bandaru locked one of the suspects inside the store when he found the money missing. Two others escaped out the front door.

Archer said police brought the suspect, a juvenile, in for questioning, then released him.

Archer turned the felony theft case over to property crimes investigators.

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