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Alleged cross-country vending-machine bandit caught

A man arrested in Benson said he netted thousands of dollars using his handcrafted tools to breaking into vending machines nationwide.

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BENSON, N.C. — The arrest of a man caught breaking into a vending machine could put an end to an alleged crime spree that the man says netted him thousands of dollars.

Benson police arrested Ricky Bailes, 47, of Sharlett Drive in Salisbury, before dawn Thursday after an officer spotted him opening a vending machine with homemade keys.

Authorities said they also found two bags and a laundry detergent bottle filled with approximately $590 in coins.

They said Bailes also confessed to breaking into numerous vending machines across the country, including locations along Interstate 95 over the past few days. Several local police departments are already in contact with Benson police about other vending machine thefts.

"He said, at one point, he'd been from the North Carolina area all the way out to California over the years, but most recently he'd been up and down the East Coast," Benson Police Chief Kenneth Edwards said.

"In fact, he was quite proud of the fact that he could enter a machine and not do any damage to it," Edwards added.

Police said Bailes told them he has made a career of breaking into vending machines with his keys and lock codes that he kept stored in a handheld computer.

Edwards said Bailes claimed he stole in excess of $100,000 last year.

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Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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