College student, 18, accused of torching ATM in South Side

South Williamsport Police have made an arrest in connection with an attempted burglary involving a cutting torch that caused nearly $41,000 in damages to the ATM at the Wyrope Williamsport Federal Credit Union, 1536 Riverside Drive, South Williamsport, on Dec. 4, court documents said.

Neiko A. Pratt, 18, of 915 Hunters Lane, Oreland, was arraigned before District Judge Gary W. Whiteman on Wednesday on charges of attempted burglary, criminal trespass, theft and criminal mischief. He was committed to Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $75,000.

Pratt, who had taken welding classes during the fall semester at Pennsylvania College of Technology, allegedly attempted to break into the machine using a cutting torch as well as equipment he had allegedly stolen from his roommate. He was aided in the attempt by at least one accomplice, court papers said.

When South Williamsport Police Cpl. Carl Finnerty arrived at the crime scene on Dec. 4, the damage to the ATM was so severe that he assessed it had been caused by an explosive device, South Williamsport Police Chief Robert Hetner said.

Further examination revealed the true cause of the damage, though the accused still was unable to breach the safe and there was no loss of currency, according to an affidavit.

Shortly after his initial assessment, Finnerty sent out a broadcast to surrounding police agencies in case similar incidents had occurred elsewhere. On Dec. 8, Finnerty was notified by South Williamsport Police Officer Devin Thompson that state police that morning had taken into custody two men, one of whom was identified as Pratt, who had allegedly tried to break into an ATM at the West Milton State Bank in Lewisburg using a cutting torch. When state troopers arrived at the scene, the men fled, but soon were overtaken, according to court documents.

Hetner said good police work and cooperation with state police led to Pratt’s arrest, but stressed that the investigation is ongoing and that he hopes more arrests will be made in connection with the crime.