Robbers used blow torches and oxygen tanks — to steal quarters, SC police say

Ralph Anthony Cangelois III, left, and Pannu Darnell Catalano
Ralph Anthony Cangelois III, left, and Pannu Darnell Catalano St. George Police Department

Have you ever rummaged through the cushions of a seat to find loose change?

A man and woman from Louisiana are behind bars at a South Carolina jail for their pursuit of quarters, police say.

Except they were not looking in the cushions of a seat; they were breaking into coin boxes at self-service car washes, according to the St. George Police Department.

And they were definitely not sliding their hands under cushions. Police reported the man and woman were found with welding torches and oxygen tanks.

Ralph Anthony Cangelois III and Pannu Darnell Catalano were arrested on multiple charges Aug. 11, after coins were stolen from the U-Wash Car Wash in St. George.

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Ralph Anthony Cangelois III St. George Police Department

According to Police Chief Brett Camp, Cangelois and Catalano are being investigated as possible suspects in several similar incidents in South Carolina, as well as in Texas, Florida, Georgia and their native Louisiana.

“These individuals could be connected to those incidents,” Camp told The State Monday, saying he has received calls from law enforcement agencies investigating whether Cangelois and Catalano are responsible for similar crimes in Dorchester County, Holly Hill and Richland County.

Camp said Cangelois and Catalano also might have been involved in incidents in the Charleston area. The owner of self-service car wash operations across the five states has called the St. George Police looking to link the man and woman to a number of break-ins, according to Camp.

They were charged with stealing quarters from the U-Wash Car Wash on multiple occasions.

The first incident was July 23, when the owner of the car wash reported that someone “used a welding torch to gain access to a locked coin compartment that is used to store money,” stealing a large amount of quarters and causing more than $2,000 of property damage, according to the police.

On Aug. 2, the machines were broken into again, with money stolen and approximately $6,000 worth of property damage reported by the police.

Both incidents were recorded on surveillance cameras, according to the police who said Cangelois and Catalano were arrested Aug. 11, and “several welding torches and oxygen tanks, along with a bag of $285 in quarters” were recovered in a search of their truck.

Video surveillance of the first incident shows a man trying, and failing, to use keys to get into the machine, according to an incident report. When that doesn’t work, police said the footage showed the man covering his car with a blanket before “lighting a torch,” to cut the steel box, and wiping the machine “to make it appear that nothing had happened.”

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Pannu Darnell Catalano St. George Police Department

Police reported Cangelois, of Mandeville, La., was charged with two counts of safecracking and two counts of malicious injury or damage to personal property $2,000 or more.

Catalano, of Slidell, La., was charged with one count of safecracking and one count of malicious injury or damage to personal property $ 2,000 or more, police said.

Cangelois and Catalano were taken to the Dorchester County Detention Center, where he is being held on an $80,000 bond and she is being held on a $40,000 bond, according to the police.

Capt. Tony Phinney, of the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to The State that a similar incident occurred in their jurisdiction “a month or so ago,” and that investigators are looking to see if Cangelois and Catalano are suspects in that incident.

Camp said that the owner of the self-service car wash machines lives in Louisiana, and is very upset over the crimes. Not just because of the money that has been stolen from the machines, but also for the cost of the damaged property, which often exceeds the amount stolen.

Security cameras show suspects breaking into the home in the Shadowmoss neighborhood in West Ashley, near Charleston, S.C.

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