Police in Indiana identify ‘car wash bandit,’ ask public to help find him

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – Police in Indiana say they have identified the man suspected of stealing thousands of dollars from car wash auto-pay machines in multiple states over the last several months.

Detective Chad Richhart told WXIN the man has been identified as 55-year-old Dana Bailey, of North Vernon. Richhart says he received a call from Jennings County authorities after recent coverage of the car wash thefts.

“They were familiar with Mr. Bailey and they said they were 110 percent positive it was Mr. Bailey,” Richhart said.

Richhart says investigators searched the North Vernon home Bailey shares with his mother last week and found several clues that connect Bailey to the car wash thefts. Officers located several maps and atlases inside the home.

“Inside one of the atlases was some laminating paper, which goes along with our theory on how he’s manipulating these machines,” Richhart said.

“And we also found a receipt for some fishing line, again kind of goes along with our theory of how he’s manipulating these machines,” Richhart said. “Especially given the fact that there were no fishing items located in the house or any of the outbuildings.”

For several months, police in several states believe a thief has been using laminated money attached to fishing line to trick auto-pay and change machines into spitting out money. In several cases, the suspect has gotten away with hundreds of dollars in a single visit.

Surveillance image from January 25, 2018 in Mooresville

Surveillance video from January 25th at the Power Wash Car Wash in Mooresville, Indiana shows a white Chrysler minivan pull up to an auto-pay machine outside one of the car wash bays. A security camera mounted on the machine shows the man insert money into the machine, push a couple buttons, then grab handfuls of change from the machine. The man can then be seen pulling the bill back out of the machine before wiping down the areas where he touched the control panel.

Richhart says the same man was seen on video last summer, traveling in a blue Chrysler minivan, committing the same theft at the same two car wash businesses. In all, Richhart says the suspect has stolen more than a thousand dollars from the two Mooresville car washes.

While investigating the case, Richhart learned that the same man is suspected of committing the same crime in several other states.  Police are looking for him in Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, New York and possibly Michigan.

While searching the North Vernon home, police also found a red SUV bearing the same license plate as the white Chrysler minivan captured in one of the car wash videos. Bailey was not at the home, but police say his mother told officers her son had recently traded the white minivan for the red SUV. Bailey’s mother also told investigators where to find the blue Chrysler minivan at a repair shop a few miles away.

Bailey’s mother told WXIN she hadn’t seen her son in about a week, and she had no idea where he was. She said when Bailey leaves, she doesn’t ask where he is going, and he usually checks in with her every couple weeks. She also said she’s not sure if she believes her son is involved with stealing from car washes or other machines.

“I don’t know what to think,” she said. “I’m very proud of my son.”

She also said she is worried about her son.

2007 booking photo from when the Dallas County, TX Sheriffs Dept. arrested Bailey for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon

“I pray for him every time I get down and pray, and that’s pretty often,” she said.

Investigators say Dana Bailey hasn’t been employed since 2008. Before that, they say he ran a company called Midwest Games, which performed maintenance on gaming machines that accept and return money. Richhart believes that prior experience has trained Bailey how to get away with so many thefts from various machines.

Richhart says Bailey has a long criminal history that includes arrests in multiple states for stealing from coin machines. Bailey was arrested in Jennings County in 2003 for stealing from a car wash machine. His most recent was in 2007 in Dallas County, Texas, on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Bailey is now believed to be traveling in a white Ford pickup truck with the license plate XZT904. Richhart calls Bailey a career criminal, and he’s asking for any help the public can provide in locating him.

“It’s going to happen, he’s going to end up being found, he’s going to get located,” Richhart said. “We would just like him to turn himself in peacefully.”