3 men arrested in Philadelphia 'games of skill' thefts

Annie McCormick Image
Saturday, January 30, 2021
3 men arrested in Philadelphia 'games of skill' thefts
Philadelphia police arrested three men on Thursday night who are connected to a ring of thefts targeting Pennsylvania 'games of skill' machines.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police arrested three men who sources believe are connected with a ring of thefts targeting Pennsylvania "games of skill" machines.

A police spokesperson told Action News the three suspects all from Philadelphia are identified as Tyreek Holmes, 32, Russell Mason-Watts, 20, and Marcus Evans, 36.

Sources believe they are the same trio who have been hitting area convenience stores and gas stations and using a sledgehammer to destroy the cash boxes attached to the skill machines. They were caught at several stores on surveillance video.

On Thursday night, employees at a 7-Eleven - unsuccessfully hit by three offenders in the 7900 block of Veree Road - alerted police who were already moving in on the suspects.

After the men fled the store, a highway patrol officer recognized the car they were driving, stopped them and arrested them. A witness from the earlier attempted robbery identified the trio.

SEE ALSO: Sledgehammer-wielding thieves targeting Philly convenience store gaming machines

Philadelphia police are on the hunt for a group of sledgehammer-wielding thieves who have been targeting convenience stores since October.

The string of thefts recently began hitting convenience stores and gas stations in the Northeast and other sections of Philadelphia and Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania.

Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said the machines, relatively new in the state, are easy targets.

"It's new because the machines are popping up, but now they're all over the place. I'm sure the criminals, they walk into the same convenience stores as everyone else and they see people put cash into a machine and they must think, 'Wow that's an easy pickings,' and they're right," he said.

Harran says they made an arrest in a similar crime in November, but does not know if that perpetrator is connected with Philadelphia's arrest Thursday night.

Concern increased in the past two weeks when a thief showed a gun and authorities feared the ring was getting bolder.

Michael Barley, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Skill Company, the company that manufactures the machines, says they are relieved to hear of an arrest.

"It's been over a month where we've been tracking these thefts. The biggest victim is the coin operator, the folks that place the machine the mom and pop businesses. Those games are really helping to keep those businesses afloat especially now during the pandemic," he said.

In light of the string of thefts, they are making changes to the cash boxes, added Barley.

"We've already made dramatic changes to the machines to help safeguard against that as much as you can," he said.