Authorities were called to the Quality Inn at 1052 Claussen Road around 5 a.m. Monday after a resident witnessed the theft, according to an incident report.
After receiving a description of the criminal, deputies found Timothy Charles Dirusso at the Pilot truck stop at 2975 Gun Club Road.
Dirusso, of West Columbia, S.C., told officers he was using the stolen money to buy gas, police said.
Deputies discovered that Dirusso already had made three purchases totaling more than $20. Dirusso directed officers to $72 in one-dollar bills in his truck console, which he admitted also came from the vending machine.
Dirusso was booked into the Richmond County jail on charges of theft by taking.