Not the Watergate Break-In, But a Plumber All the Same

It’s bad enough when workmen enter your apartment, don’t fix your problem and leave behind a mess. But what’s really irritating is when they also burglarize the place. That’s what happened to one unlucky East 83rd Street resident on Jan. 11. He told the police that he was expecting the plumber—and, when the guy didn’t show up on time, he was forced to leave for work.

He returned home later that day to discover that somebody had entered his apartment and stolen his Apple laptop. Which might have seemed less insufferable if his plumbing problems had at least been fixed. But it turns out the plumber—or whoever it was who stole the computer—isn’t just crooked, he also does sloppy work: The victim, 35, entered his bathroom and discovered that the workman had left behind an exposed pipe and torn pieces of tile on the bathroom floor. There were no signs of forced entry into the apartment.

Barney Hunter

It’s not easy to find bargains at Barneys—unless you work there, and not just because you can take advantage of their employee discount. On Jan. 30, the department store’s loss-prevention manager reported to the police a rather nifty piece of in-store detective work that ended in the apprehension of a 20-year-old employee.

The manager told the cops that the suspect was working at the store on Dec. 27 when he issued a gift card to a customer in the amount of $239.36. Except that he actually kept the gift card for himself and handed the shopper a gift card with a zero balance: in other words a blank, a dummy—which, come to think of it, is an absurdly simple thing to do, since it’s impossible to tell the balance on a gift card just by looking at it. The only problem with the scheme is that sooner or later the customer is going to return to the store and try to use the card. And when he can’t, he’s going to report the problem to the management, which is what happened here.

When the shopper came back to Barneys and tried (unsuccessfully) to make a transaction, the problem was brought to the attention of the loss-prevention manager. The salesperson who’d originally issued the card was tracked down through store receipts with his name on them for an amount close to the stolen credit: He’d used it to make a $112 purchase on Dec. 28, and two additional purchases—one for $69.73, the other for $62.69—the following day.

He was apprehended when he arrived at 2151 Broadway, the site of Barneys Co-Op, for what was described as a “training session”—though the thief’s talents could probably have been put to better use teaching his co-workers the finer points of loss prevention than demonstrating how to attractively restock a department-store shelf.

Hearty Huckster

Hale & Hearty, the soup makers, have a program in which you buy 10 soups and then get the 11th one free. But an employee thought up an even better incentive program, after working at the company’s 1129 Lexington Avenue location for only four days.

The suspect, described as 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and 34 years old, put in a strenuous day’s work delivering such Hale & Hearty favorites as Tuscan white bean and broccoli cheddar. He was supposed to return to the store at the end of the day with $242, the amount he’d collected in food orders. But he never did, pocketing the money instead. He also absconded with a handsome $22 Hale & Hearty delivery jacket and a $65 Hale & Hearty insulated carrying bag.

Street Smarts

A quick-thinking crook got the better of the nerds at Advantage Testing on Jan. 18. The thief visited the company’s East 86th Street office at 3:50 p.m. and proceeded to the back office, removing an air purifier. When challenged by an employee, he displayed the native intelligence that the College Board finds so hard to test and quantify— announcing that he was taking it for a cleaning.

That didn’t explain the orange leather duffel bag he was carrying, but no matter. He fooled the testing-company employee, entered the elevator and was seen no more. After he departed, the Advantage Testing employee discovered that a bunch of other stuff was gone, too: $480 worth of Guy Larmandier champagne that had been stored in the stairwell (perhaps to fête clients who scored a perfect 2,400 on their SAT’s?); five copies of The Rule of Four, a mystery novel set at Princeton; $1,350 in personal checks; and, of course, the air purifier, which was valued at $100.