A Chula Vista man was sentenced in Federal Court on Thursday to more than 11 years in prison for blowing up ATM machines in the San Diego area to steal money contained inside. 

Chad Lee Engel, 50, was sentenced to 138 months in prison for his part in detonating a California Coast Credit Union ATM, located at 4285 Ruffin Road in San Diego, on July 4, 2017; and an ATM located at a Chevron gas station, located at 9650 Miramar Road in San Diego on August 13, 2017. Engel pleaded guilty in July 2022. 

According to the first Indictment, Engel admitted that he and a coconspirator made and detonated a pipe bomb on a metal shelf underneath the ATM on July 4, 2017, which caused significant damage to the ATM’s structure, but the pair were unsuccessful in attaining any money. The coconspirator was identified as  Scott Michael Petri. 

In a second Indictment, Engel admitted that he and Petri approached an outdoor ATM located at a Chevron gas station. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney SHital H. Thakkar, they worked together to drill a hole in its housing and dispersed an unknown gas (such as acetylene or propane) into the ATM. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Engel then placed and ignited a hobby fuse inside the drilled hole, which resulted in an explosion that destroyed the ATM. After the explosion, Engel retrieved a cash box from the post-blast debris that contained approximately $7,000, and both he and the coconspirator fled. 

Additional investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office revealed that Engel and his accomplice attempted to locate and break into other ATMs prior to the July 4 and Aug.12, 2017 incidents. They admitted to these incidents in their plea agreement, in which prosecutors dropped charges related to the use of explosives. 

The pair admitted to breaking into a Super Laundry in National City on June 18, 2017, in an attempt to burglarize the ATM machine located inside. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, they were unsuccessful in breaking into that ATM machine but stole approximately $140 from the Super Laundry. 

The pair also broke into another ATM machine located at 12860 Rancho Peñasquitos Boulevard in San Diego on June 25, 2018. They loaded the ATM machine into their vehicle and took it near Fiesta Island, where they used a grinder and cutting torch to break in and steal the money inside. 

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