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Alleged vending machine thief arrested at University of Massachusetts in Amherst

Ronald Leon Briere, 44, of Suffield, Conn., was arrested Dec. 11 at 7:53 p.m. on six counts of larceny over $250, six counts of vandalizing property and a charge of possession of burglary tools after police determined he was responsible for forcibly breaking into six machines in four residence halls between Dec. 3 and 9, said Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald. Briere was also arrested on charges of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with a number plate to conceal identity, Archbald said.

Archbald said UMass police got involved in the case when reports were made Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. that vending machines were broken into at both Patterson and Butterfield dormitories.

“Detectives began looking into the circumstances of the breaks,” Archbald said. “They had every appearance of being conducted by someone familiar with the inside of the machines and able to access the money.” Newer vending machines are more sophisticated in how the money is stored, Archbald said, and many are also connected to a central computer on the campus so that students can use their UCards to purchase food and beverages.

Additional machines were targeted at John Adams and Crabtree dormitories. Archbald said evidence indicated that Briere was familiar with the functioning of the machines, owned by AraMatic Co. of Springfield.

Using surveillance footage in dormitories, detectives identified Briere as the suspect, as he was observed getting into the residence halls using a “tailgating” process, which means students would hold the door for him.

Police arrested Briere only after he returned to campus and was seen leaving a dormitory, Archbald said. The vehicle he was driving was stopped a short time later.

In the end, Briere is believed to have taken $2,693 in cash and caused damage estimated at $5,337 to the machines, Archbald said. Briere is not suspected of stealing any product from the machines, Archbald said.

Archbald said he appreciates the “tenacious work” by detectives in making the arrest.

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