Burglars wreak havoc on local shops


Four masked burglars and one sledgehammer had a big night. The owners of three businesses had a miserable morning.

Police found themselves investigating reports of multiple break-ins at shops on West 238th Street near Bailey Avenue. Sometime during the night on Sept. 6, detectives said, a team of burglars stole whatever they could find inside Aleisha Nail Bar Salon, Sanchez Tax Professional and Ismael’s Gourmet Deli.

Police from the 50th Precinct spent the morning dusting for fingerprints and photographing the scenes.

Alejandrina Mejia stood outside her salon looking heartbroken. She received a call from police that something wasn’t right at her Aleisha Nailbar location, and was on scene by about 7:30 a.m.

“They called us because there was water coming out from the shop,” she said. The burglars “opened all the sinks and left the water running.”

Besides flooding the salon floor, burglars broke glass, destroyed equipment, and tipped over storage containers.

They broke into her shop through the roof, police said. There are no cameras outside on the street, but there were inside the shops. Security footage caught most of the early-morning break-in.

Two doors down, Orlando Candelario was surveying the damage done to his tax office. The owner found burglars took as many electronics as they could carry, smashed what they didn’t want, and left the office floor strewn with papers.

The devastation in front of Candelario came as a shock.

“It’s terrible to see your business in this situation,” he said. “I feel bad because this is such a quiet neighborhood, and then this happened. I feel terrible.”

Lightning struck twice for Suzie Peña and Ismael Diaz, owners of Ismael’s Gourmet Deli.

In February, someone stole their autistic son’s kitten, Luna, only to return it less than a week later after intense media coverage. This time they weren’t so lucky.

Peña stood in the ruins of her little bodega. Luna picked her way around the broken glass covering the floor. The battered remains of an ATM lay on its face. The phone rang, but Peña couldn’t find the handset buried in the piles of paper and candy thieves pulled out of cases and dumped onto the floor.

“They took off her collar,” Diaz said, pointing to Luna. “They took it thinking the rhinestones on it were diamonds.”

“I can’t believe they took the time to do that,” Peña said. “I hope she scratched them really good when they caught her.”

The burglars — the same team police say hit the other two businesses — forced their way through the back door.

They even tried to break down the door separating the bodega with a neighboring pizza shop.

They took the business laptop with all of Peña’s financials. They also took any electronics they could find as well as about $1,000 in cash.

“They destroyed stuff more than anything,” Peña said. “They broke the deli case, they pulled everything out of the refrigerators.”

Some of the destruction made no sense, the couple said. Burglars threw out the salad bar’s contents, and it appeared they thoroughly searched the shredded lettuce container. They broke nearly all the glass in the place. Diaz found a bunch of bananas on the floor bearing a big boot-print.

Two security cameras were broken, but the remaining six caught several angles of the burglary. Diaz drew his cell phone from his back pocket.

“Watch this,” he said.

He played a grayscale video of four men dressed in coveralls, wearing gloves on their hands and masks on their faces. They pounded at the store’s ATM with a sledgehammer.

In another segment, the robbers were stooped over the ruined drinks cooler.

“They even had the nerve to take some drinks before they left because they were thirsty,” Diaz said wryly.

When their 10-year-old son saw the destruction, he panicked. Diaz and Peña panicked. Even worse, the couple fear their business — which opened less than a year ago — may not recover.

“It’s a first-time business and it wasn’t going well,” Peña said. “This was like the cherry on top of the problems.”