Butcher and bistro owner who warned about Bitcoin scams robbed

Bitcoin ATM among items stolen in early Thursday break-in

A Red Deer business owner who raised the alarm last week about Bitcoin scammers was robbed early Thursday.

Around 4:15 a.m., three crooks smashed through the door of Messinger Meats, stole an expensive scale, a few baskets of meat and an empty Bitcoin machine.

Mercedes Messinger went public with a warning about Bitcoin scammers a week ago. She recounted her experiences with people who were convinced by some distant caller to put money into the Bitcoin ATM in her shop to pay off supposed debts or overdue taxes.

Whether she was targeted because of the coverage is questionable. The numerous video surveillance cameras in her shop in south Red Deer caught every movement of the thieves, who went through cash registers, and the meat cutting area, where they grabbed the scale.

The men wearing hoodies grabbed several plastic baskets of meat from a fridge, but only in the last seconds of the heist did one appear to notice the machine.

It took three to carry the Bitcoin ATM out to a waiting truck, which was caught on surveillance cameras posted outside the south-end strip mall at 2067 50th Ave.

The entire robbery lasted three minutes.

The thieves did not get much for their troubles. Like the cash registers, the ATM is emptied each day. Messinger, like most cautious shop owners, never leaves money on the premises.

“It could’ve happened to any business,” she said, adding she believes it was a crime of opportunity.

“Banks are robbed. ATMs are stolen out of gas stations.

“There are so many different businesses being broken into all the time.”

About six hours after the theft, she was notified by RCMP that the ATM had been found broken open on a gravel road outside Elnora, 70 kilometres away.

Messinger does not regret taking a stand against Bitcoin scammers. A Red Deer RCMP fraud investigator, who helped create a scam warning sign that is to be posted on Bitcoin machines across Alberta, was grateful for her efforts.

She knows that her public message has probably already stopped trusting or intimidated people from becoming victims of cunning fraudsters.

Within days of speaking out about the dangers of Bitcoin scams, Messinger’s relative got a call on his cellphone from someone who claimed money was owed. The unknown caller also asked for his social insurance number, because the number the caller had was supposedly incorrect.

The sad reality, she said, is that thieves abound. She has had her vehicle broken into several times behind the strip mall, which is also under constant video surveillance.

The crime was “frustrating and disheartening,” she said, but she will not let thieves get her down or change her opinion that most people are good.

“If you stop believing that there’s good in people, it’s over.”



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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