EXCLUSIVE: Pee Dee thief caught on camera, accused of stealing thousands from air vac machines for years

The crook even put his own locks on the coin machines.
Pee Dee business owners are taking it upon themselves to track down a brazen thief who's been stealing from air vacuum machines for years.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 9:45 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 11:19 AM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - A company wants a Pee Dee thief behind bars after years of allegedly turning its air vacuum machines into his own personal piggy bank.

Eden Sorensen, the bookkeeper and co-owner of Horry County-based company CTI, said CTI owns dozens of air vacuum machines across the state, including in both Horry and Florence County.

She believes the same person has swiped change from at least 14 of her company’s machines in Florence over the last year and a half.

“When our techs would go to the locations we noticed that the locks had been drilled and as we were pulling out the trays, there’s no coins in them,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen said they first reported someone stealing from the machines to the police in November 2021 and soon noticed many of their other air vacuum machines were broken into.

“We filed police report after police report and nothing had been done. So we replaced all the locks with these harder-to-drill locks hoping to avoid the situation again,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen said those new locks didn’t stop the thief, who had new locks of his own.

“Some of the locks that we had replaced were now replaced with a different lock that we did not have keys to. So, we determined that he drilled our new locks and put his own locks on so that it was easier access for him to get into and steal the coins,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen said after that, they installed a security camera near one of the machines and got creative.

“Within two hours of installing that camera we see the suspect go to the location, put his key inside the lock, take the lock off, take the coin tray out, but he noticed there’s no coin tray in it because we caused a coin jam,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen sent a video from January 19 to the police.

Reports obtained by WMBF News claim, not only does the security camera video catch the thief red-handed, but the police report shows the thief was also driving a truck with stolen plates during the crime.

Sorensen said while the coin jam may have stopped the crook temporarily, the damage is already done.

She said the thief has stolen around $17,000 dollars in coins over the past 16 months, not including the cost of new locks they had to buy and damage to the machines.

Sorensen’s company isn’t the only one hit by thieves.

Suntel’s operations manager and owner Jay Calvin said his company’s air vacuum machines in the Pee Dee have also been broken into.

“They actually put their own lock on that one. It’s the same person. I ended up having to go in and drill it. We’ve had our share, but it seems CTI is getting the most of it from this gentleman,” said Calvin.

WMBF News called the Florence Police Department to see why the thief hasn’t been arrested despite the security video seemingly catching him.

The Florence Police Department said out of the 12 police reports Sorensen has filed, cameras only caught the crook twice.

The police department says they did identify a person of interest, but officers did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Sorensen said she’s frustrated because the company took it upon themselves to reportedly find the identity of the thief through Facebook and wishes officers could do more.

“We just hope you would do something about it. Arrest him. Put him in jail. I mean he’s doing a lot of crime,” said Sorensen.

She said not only is the thief taking away money from her business but the gas station and other storefronts she splits the air vacuums earnings with.

However, she said she knows one day they will catch the person behind this.

“At this point we really just want you to stop. We know who you are. It’s taken time to catch you, but we do know information about you, and we will catch you on-site eventually doing it,” said Sorensen.

This is a developing story. Stay with WMBF News for updates.