A man caught on tape robs coin boxes during business hours.

LEWISTON – In the surveillance tape footage, the man looks like any other video game junkie at an arcade. He plays one machine and then coolly moves to another. He stops for a solo game of pool and then strolls over to a vending machine.

“He’s checking out the integrity of the cash box,” says Lewiston police Detective David Chick, pointing to the taped pictures on his computer screen. “He’s going to work. He’s doing his thing. This guy is bold.”

Police say the man shown in surveillance footage is not just a guy looking for easy recreation. He’s looking for easy money.

For more than six months, the suspect has been ripping off arcades and bowling alleys by breaking into coin boxes on games, pool tables and vending machines.

Police said the brazen thief has hit Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston at least four times since October. The same suspect has also made off with hundreds of dollars in change from bowling alleys in Hallowell, Waterville, Augusta and Windham, they said.

“He’ll just go in and act like he’s playing a machine. He’ll take what’s there and move on to the next game available,” said police Lt. Paul Harmon. “He doesn’t like people right beside him. But he doesn’t appear to mind if there are several people in the room with him.”

Right under their eyes

Police said the suspect seems to have some knowledge about how coin boxes on video games work. He is able to break in and grab the change under the eyes of arcade employees and other customers. Nobody seems to notice at the time.

“He’s not screaming, he’s not yelling and he’s not running around,” said Chick, still watching the video footage of the suspect. “He doesn’t draw attention to himself.”

Police estimate the suspect has probably swiped $1,000 or more since October. He gets his loot by grabbing $30 to $60 in change at a time. That’s between 120 and 240 quarters to casually haul out of a business.

“In at least one case, he has a gym bag with him,” Chick said.

In one scene from the surveillance tapes, the suspect is seen hitching his pants up, as if his pockets were weighted down with coins.

Police investigating have no idea where the suspect lives or how he chooses businesses to rip off. They do, however, have plenty of footage from the surveillance cameras. Investigators hope that might provide the break they need to capture the suspect, who is described as a white man at least 30 years old who has short, dark hair and a Fu Manchu-style mustache.

Investigators believe the suspect drives a tan sport utility vehicle, possibly with stolen plates. Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call Lewiston police detectives at 795-9000.

Surveillance photos of the suspect in action have been posted on mainemostwanted.com.

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