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Monday, April 15, 2024

Korean-owned liquor store in Buena Park shoplifted by thief from rooftop

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On March 27th, the day after the incident, CSI agent conducted investigation on crime method on the rooftop (left) Photo of suspect climbing down from the rooftop to steal the store (Right) [Photo provided by Min-seok Moon]
Min-seok Moon, the owner of First Stop, a liquor store in Buena Park, sighed deeply as he showed security camera footage of the crime.

“It took him less than three minutes to break through the roof, climb down on a rope, grab the lottery tickets, cash, and cigarettes, and leave,” Moon told Korea Daily on the 3rd. “He already knew exactly where the lottery box, cash register, and cigarettes were located, so it looks like he did his research beforehand.”

The incident happened at 4:30 p.m. on March 26, Sunday. It was broad daylight. The liquor store is not open on Sundays. The thieves apparently knew this.

Instead of using the so-called “smash-and-grab” method of breaking store windows and grabbing items, the suspects climbed onto the roof of the warehouse building.

They used chainsaws to carry out the crime. The thieves allegedly knew that the roof of the regular building was made of wood veneer.

The thieves used a chainsaw to cut the roof into a rectangular shape. The space is about 20 inches across and 20 inches deep. That’s enough for an adult to squeeze through with little effort.

Surveillance camera footage shows one of the thieves sliding down a rope through the space, breaking into the store, and quickly grabbing a large pouch of lottery tickets before climbing back up the rope and fleeing.

“We had solid steel doors in the front and back of the store, and I never imagined they would come through the roof,” Moon said. “They came down the rope like movies from Hollywood, and they just picked out what they thought would be valuable, and they got away with about $15,000 in damages, including lottery tickets, cash, and cigarettes.”

Lottery tickets are also federally taxable. Because the thieves made off with scratch-off tickets, not only the Buena Park Police Department, but also the California Lottery and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Scene Investigation Team (CSI) were called in to collect evidence, including fingerprints.

Korean-American business owners in the neighborhood also complained one after another. “We’ve been robbed twice,” said a Korean-American business owner who runs a Japanese restaurant, “and all the businesses around here have been robbed once or twice recently, so we’re being cautious.”

For Mr. Moon, the latest victim, there were ominous signs beforehand. According to Moon, the thieves were caught on security camera about a month ago when they tried unsuccessfully to cut through liquor store’s grated steel door and lock with a chainsaw in the early morning hours before fleeing.

“If you look at the camera footage, the suspects’ facial expressions are almost identical to the thieves this time,” Moon said. “I called a welder to fix the steel door more firmly, and this happened.”

Fixing the roof that the thieves broke through is not easy either. Due to the heavy winter rains, it was difficult to find a repairman immediately, and some people demanded a lot of money. For now, with the help of friends, Moon is using temporary veneer plywood to cover the hole in the ceiling.

“I try to think of it as learning lessons that I paid for,” Moon said, “but there are a lot of thefts these days, so Korean-American business owners should be careful not to fall victim.”

By Yeol Jang [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]