Thieves snatch $100,000 in TVs from Fort Lauderdale warehouse

The middle-of-the-night burglary involved the use of two matching vans, the disabling of surveillance cameras and the help of sledgehammers to break through two concrete walls.

The burglary was so well played out that at one point, police and a company manager showed up while the thieves presumably were holed up inside. They left when it appeared nothing was wrong.

By daylight, approximately 90 flat-screen televisions worth more than $100,000 were gone from a warehouse belonging to IAVA, a Fort Lauderdale-based distributor of major Japanese electronics.

"We're still amazed by how they pulled this off," said company manager Michael Arrencibia.

The caper began about 10:30 p.m. July 21 at the company's warehouse in the 4900 block of Powerline Road, just north of Commercial Boulevard.

That's when surveillance video first shows two men appearing in an alley behind a block of warehouses, including one belonging to the electronics company. Wearing bandanas over their faces, the men are seen climbing on various objects, including a drainpipe, to disable some of the security cameras along the alley.

According to police, the thieves then forced open a metal shutter over the door of an auto repair shop, which didn't have an alarm. Two concrete walls separate the shop from the warehouse full of televisions. Company officials say one of two white vans is then seen on the video disappearing into the auto repair shop.

It wasn't until about 2 a.m. — almost four hours after the break-in — that an alarm was triggered from inside the electronics company, indicating there was movement inside. David Lee, a manager with the company, arrived at the warehouse along with Fort Lauderdale Police, according to a police report.

Police checked all the doors of the electronics company and found them to be secured, according to the police report.

"Lee and the officers mutually agreed there was no need to check the business' interior," wrote reporting officer Paul Williams.

Arrencibia said he believes the thieves were hiding inside while everyone sniffed around outside.

The next morning, Arrencibia said he opened the warehouse to find that four pallets of flat-screen televisions were gone. The screens ranged from 40 to 70 inches.

"When I opened the door, I was greeted by a huge hole in the wall," Arrencibia said.

The manager suspects the men carried the televisions through the hole, about 4 feet wide by 3 feet high, and loaded them into the van next door.

After that van was filled, a second van arrived to pick up more TVs. The men signaled for the vans by using flashlights, Arrencibia said. The thieves left behind the sledgehammer apparently used during the burglary.

Police on Monday said they plan to release some of the stills taken from the surveillance videos in hopes someone can identify the men or the vehicles.

"The detectives feel this was a well-thought plan and are actively pursuing all leads," said department spokeswoman Detective DeAnna Garcia.

Company officials are offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who can help in the arrest.

Calli Jaqua, an employee who combed through several hours of surveillance video to help police, said the only image she wants to see now is that of the thieves being arrested.

"I've watched them doing this [on surveillance video] so much that I just hate looking at them now," she said. "It's not about getting the televisions returned, it's about watching them get caught."

Anyone with information is asked to call Broward Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 954-493-8477.


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