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Police identify man suspected in 40 vending machine break-ins

SALT LAKE CITY — Unified police investigators have identified a man who they believe has been breaking into vending machines and coin-operated child rides and arcade games across Utah and surrounding states.

Meanwhile, detectives were looking into whether another burglary early Thursday in Salt Lake City could be connected.

Police believe Jimmy Jack Olson, 31, has broken into more than 40 machines at grocery stores in West Jordan, South Jordan, West Valley City, Sandy, Centerville, Price, Orem, American Fork, Harrisville, Riverdale, Idaho Falls, Wendover, Evanston, Cedar City, Mesquite and more since Aug. 11, said Unified Police Sgt. Jared Richardson.

Police were looking for Olson Thursday.

Typically, machines in front of the stores requiring quarters were targeted, such as the claw arcade game or a children's ride, according to police. The brazen thief breaks into the games using a crowbar and screwdriver while the store is still open. Because the arcade games are contracted out, store employees don't know who is assigned to repair them or perform maintenance on them.

Detectives believe Olson took between $13 to up to $350 from each incident. The total revenue loss plus damage to the machines was estimated to be $33,000 as of Monday. Some witnesses have told investigators that another person has been seen waiting in a car outside the stores.

About 5:20 a.m. Thursday at Love's Travel Stop, 25 N. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City, a man witnessed another man breaking into a vending machine and confronted him about it, said Salt Lake police detective Veronica Montoya. The alleged burglar was holding a crowbar and possibly took a swing at the witness, she said.

Somehow, the witness was able to grab the crowbar and take it away from him, causing the would-be burglar to run off, she said. It was unknown Thursday if that incident is connected to the others.

On Wednesday, Olson was charged in 3rd District Court with retail theft, a third-degree felony, for allegedly stealing a speaker from K-Mart, 4670 S. 900 East, in June along with a female accomplice, according to charging documents.

It was not immediately known Thursday if the woman named in the K-Mart incident is the alleged accomplice Unified police believe has been working with Olson in the vending machine burglaries. Olson's lengthy criminal history includes convictions of theft and burglary of a vehicle in 2014 in Duchesne County for which he was sentenced to 60 days home confinement with an ankle monitor, according to court records. In 2006, Olson was convicted of robbery in Carbon County and sentenced to up to five years at the Utah State Prison.

He was convicted of assault in 2004 and given six months in jail. He was convicted of aggravated burglary in two separate cases in 2003 for which he was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison for each case to run concurrently, according to court records.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

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