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Bank safe deposit box thefts have experts stumped

Valuables, cash replaced by random locks

CENTRAL FLORIDA, Fla. – A WKMG News 6 investigation has discovered safe deposit box thefts from two Central Florida Bank of America branches with the same calling card: a random drilled-out lock left in place of thousands of dollars' worth of heirlooms and cash.

Veteran Florida attorney Darren Elkind said that in both  cases, in Volusia and Seminole counties, police said there were no obvious signs that the safe deposit boxes had been compromised.

“The locks were picked. The locks were not drilled,” Elkind told WKMG-TV News 6. "The box holders' keys still worked.”

Elkind represents customers of the Bank of America branch in Deland. He said they have asked to remain anonymous but hope their story prompts others to check their bank deposit boxes.

"It’s too similar. It’s too odd. It can’t be a coincidence,” Elkind said.

Dave McGuinn, president of Houston’s Safe Deposit Specialists, considered one of the country’s top safe deposit burglary and loss experts, said he has never seen anything like this in his 45 years of investigating bank cases, but he admitted that a locksmith could pull off the heist with the right skills and equipment.

“There are tools you can buy on eBay that will open every box in that vault in 3 seconds,"McGuinn told WKMG-TV News 6. “If you can get one (safe deposit box), you can get 10 if you have the right training and opportunity.”

Detectives in Seminole County confirmed that latent prints were found on the box in a Bank of America branch near Winter Springs, but that was a dead end.

The box's owner, Monica Pilato, told News 6 that she expected to find more than $43,000 inside her safe deposit box when she opened it  in April. Instead, she found a drilled out Mosley lock, a few screws and a broken metal plate.

“I was thinking it must be a mistake," she said, “Maybe they just moved my money, I was shocked.”

Pilato said she noticed that several boxes had locks drilled out on April 6, the day she discovered that her father’s money was gone.

“There were a few boxes surrounding the area at the time… I don’t remember the numbers. Of course I didn’t write them down, but iI noticed the drilled out-out locks-, and iI asked what do they do with those, and (bank employees) had taken out a box, and in the box was a drilled-out lock like mine.”

Bank of America’s corporate team is reviewing the cases but declined to discuss specific protocol.

In an email to WKMG, spokesman Matthew Daily wrote: “We are aware of the claims and are looking into them. Security is one of our primary concerns for our safe deposit box customers, and we take steps to help ensure the security of our customers’ contents."

Safe deposit boxes are not insured by banks or the FDIC.


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