The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office wants to know: Have you lost an ATM recently? Misplaced it, perhaps?
Yes, you read that correctly — an ATM.
A North Deer Isle woman put Detective Steve McFarland onto one of the strangest found-property cases he’s seen in his 30-year career when she reported finding the computer-driven money dispenser at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, he said.
“The lady was out for a walk, like she does every day, and saw it standing upright on the edge of the woods right where she walked, and she called us,” McFarland said Wednesday. “She said, ‘This does not look right.’”
McFarland saw immediately what she meant when he got to the site of the discovery, in woods about six-tenths of a mile off a dirt road, Dexter Farm Road, which runs off Route 15 in North Deer Isle.
Footprints left in the snow — likely those of the several people who placed it there — ringed the Tidel ATM machine. McFarland recognized it immediately as a common brand, the smaller kind typically found in convenience stores, he said, and it was alongside another, smaller dirt road in an area frequented by outdoorsmen.
“It was set up like a hunter might need quick cash for a cup of coffee in the middle of the woods,” McFarland said.
It’s not unheard of for police to discover this kind of machinery cast away in hard-to-reach spots, but that’s usually in cases of burglary, where somebody breaks into a convenience store after closing and carts away the ATM, McFarland said.
Lesser burglars leave them along roads, badly damaged after being pried open, usually tossed out of a moving vehicle, like a pickup truck.
But this machine is intact, and no one has reported one missing or stolen recently, McFarland said. A tip received Wednesday afternoon that it might be an ATM stolen from a diner in Brunswick last fall turned out to be a dead end.
“Usually they are just thrown out into the woods, ripped open and smashed to pieces,” McFarland said. “If you wanted cash out of it, you certainly would have ripped it open.”
One clue that supports this theory: when McFarland plugged in the machine, it didn’t work.
“It is a little bit older machine, when you look at it up close. I am thinking it was discontinued from service and somebody wanted to get rid of it and thought it would be a good joke,” McFarland said.
McFarland hasn’t broken open the machine to see if it has money in it. He is trying to trace the machine to its owner through its serial number and manufacturer.
He says he is prepared to go along with the humor, up to a point, if the owner or whoever left the ATM in the woods would call him at 207-667-7575.
“I could charge them with littering, but I doubt it. I don’t think I would do that,” he said. “I would probably want the owner to come get it and dispose of it more appropriately.”