Crime Blotter

Role Reversal: Chichi Grocery

Gets Fleeced by Joe Public

Things can get crazy around lunchtime at the popular new Dean and DeLuca at 1150 Madison Avenue, which may explain how, on March 3, a telephone caller masquerading as a Dean and DeLuca employee managed to con the upscale grocer out of $261.

That afternoon, a store worker received a call from a person who said he was phoning on behalf of Dane Neller, Dean and DeLuca’s chief executive. The caller stated that Mr. Neller’s car had broken down and he needed money to fix it. The man added that he’d be in shortly to collect the cash.

Sure enough, at 2:30 p.m. the suspect-described as a 30- to 35-year-old male-visited the store and was provided with the money. While $261 may sound like a lot, in these parts it’s about the going rate for a bunch of bananas, for which the Crime Blotter paid an extraordinary $1.69 a pound on a recent outing to the store.

It was only after the perp had departed that the Dean and DeLuca employee decided to double-check his story and discovered that it was fictitious. Whether or not Mr. Neller’s vehicle was actually in need of servicing, we may never know, but no one from Dean and DeLuca had authorized company funds for its repair.

Not all may be lost, however. Dean and DeLuca’s spanking new store also has spanking new surveillance cameras, which very well may have recorded the perp pulling his con and may thus put employees in a better position to apprehend the man should he ever try to do so again.

Security Breach

Hunter College, at 695 Park Avenue, generates its fair share of grand- and petty-larceny reports. But you know things are getting out of hand when the victims start to include members of the college’s own security team. That’s what happened on March 10 when a security guard reported to the police that his wallet went missing from his office desk at 2:30 p.m.

The victim, a 24-year-old Brooklyn resident, said the wallet contained $150, bank and health cards, and both Virginia and New York State driver’s licenses.

Bungling Bird-Watcher

If you believe that the average New York male has never entertained the idea of peering into the window of a comely (preferably naked) neighbor with the assistance of a telescope or a pair of binoculars, then you probably also believe that George W. Bush didn’t give a thought to attacking Iraq before 9/11.

However, if you are of a mind to look in on your neighbors, there are ways to go about the task properly-not that we encourage it (or have ever done so ourselves). For starters, prudence dictates that one extinguish the lights in one’s own apartment, and perhaps even stand a ways back from the window, so that the lenses of one’s optical aids don’t catch the light.

Unfortunately for the fellow that the cops apprehended on March 25, he’d observed neither of these precautions. Indeed, his arrest occurred because, rather than looking at the ladies from behind drawn blinds, he brazenly decided to do so from the roof of 226 East 86th Street. Even worse, he doesn’t even live at the address.

The peeping Tom, a 48-year-old East 52nd Street resident, was spotted by someone who promptly called 911. The cops responded and proceeded to the roof, where they arrested the pervert for both public lewdness and criminal trespass.

Two-Legged Chair

It’s easy enough to see how shoplifters can pocket clothes or jewelry. But a $2,300 chair-such as the one that vanished from Oak, Smith and Jones, at 1510 Second Avenue, on March 8-requires a bit more talent.

The furniture store reported that an unknown perp dropped by at around 1:30 p.m. and removed a leather chair from the front of the store. Employees no doubt figured out that something fishy was going on (though not soon enough) when they spotted the male, in full possession of his prize, leaving the scene in a black van with New Jersey plates, which was being driven by a second male.

The store told the police that this wasn’t the first time such a theft had occurred.

Short People Got

No Reason

A short crook used her disability to her advantage at the Food Emporium at Madison Avenue and 87th Street on March 10. At around 1 p.m., the perp-described as a diminutive 5-foot-2-asked a taller woman to retrieve a box of coffee filters for her from one of the supermarket’s upper shelves.

The victim, a 1035 Fifth Avenue resident, pleasantly complied and reached up for the product in question. But as she did, her assailant said, “Not those, the ones in the back.”

While it may be true that the perp was indeed a coffee lover, the Good Samaritan only later discovered the real reason the other shopper was putting her through the stretching exercises: It was to distract her while she stole her wallet from her handbag, which was hanging from the victim’s shoulder.

When the 65-year-old customer got to the checkout counter and reached for her money, she realized that her wallet, containing credit cards and an unknown amount of cash, was missing.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

Crime Blotter