LOWER MANHATTAN — A man posing as a Department of Sanitation worker stole thousands of dollars from Lower Manhattan restaurants and bars, distracting workers with threats of fines, police said.
In each case, Christopher Henderson, 52, and his as-yet-unnamed partner struck in the morning, telling employees they were from Sanitation and that the garbage outside on the sidewalk needed to be cleaned up immediately, or the business would be fined, police said.
While the employees were distracted by the garbage issue, one or both men would enter the business and steal their cash, according to witnesses and authorities.
Henderson, 52, and his accomplice hit four spots over the past two months: upscale West Village restaurant Yerba Buena, Lower East Side bar The Magician, the Seaport’s Fresh Salt and Cricketer’s Arms in TriBeCa.
“They [the alleged robbers] came at about 10 a.m. and told one of the delivery guys that they were going to give the restaurant a ticket, so he came looking for me,” said Ana Pena, the event manager for Yerba Buena, at 1 Perry St, about the Dec. 16 theft at the bar. “That’s when one of them broke into the basement, and my office — which I had stepped out of — and stole $600 in cash from a drawer.”
“I never saw them, but it’s terrifying — I don’t know how they knew I wasn’t in the office,” she added. “’I’m walking around paranoid now — we’ve installed new locks and video cameras.”
Henderson and his accomplice also stole $6,000 from The Magician, 118 Rivington St., at about 11 a.m. on Dec. 2, as well as $400 from Fresh Salt, 146 Beekman St., on Dec. 30 at 8:30 a.m, police said.
Using their Sanitation Department ruse, the men also swiped $710 from TriBeCa bar Cricketer’s Arms at 57 Murray St. on Jan. 17, police said. After gaining access to the bar, they stole from the cash register at about 8 a.m., police said.
Henderson was arrested Jan. 19 and charged with one count of grand larceny and six counts of burglary, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said. He faces up to seven years in prison for each charge.
Henderson's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Police were still looking for his partner as of Thursday.
Other notable crimes in the 1st Precinct include:
► Police arrested a suspect accused of attacking a 74-year-old man after getting into an argument with him on Fulton Street last week.
Police said Laval Woods, 24, punched the man in the face after a dispute on Jan. 15, at about 2 p.m. The attacker’s blow forced the man to fall, leaving him with a broken ankle, along with a broken nose and cuts to his hands. The victim was treated for injuries at New York-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. Woods was charged with assault, attempted assault and harassment.
A call to Woods’s attorney was not immediately returned.
► Two robbers swiped 26 boxes of Crest Whitening Strips, worth a total of $1,600, from a Battery Park City Duane Reade, 325 North End Ave., on Jan. 19, police said. The man and woman surreptitiously grabbed the boxes and walked out of the store at about 1:30 p.m., according to video surveillance footage, police said.
► A man stole $4,200 worth of women’s clothes from a SoHo Club Monaco, on Jan. 18, police said. The man quickly grabbed five sweaters, four shirts and 15 pairs of pants that were lying on a couch in the 121 Prince St. shop, before walking out. The store security guard was on a meal break when the thief shoplifted the wares, at about 6 p.m., police said.
► A straphanger was attacked by four teens attempting to steal her handbag on a northbound train on the 4/5 line Jan. 16 at 3:30 p.m., police said. The 33-year-old woman told officers that the pack of girls started harassing her on the train, which quickly escalated into violence. The teens pushed her, and punched her in the face, as she refused to give up bag. The girls fled off the train at the Wall Street stop, without the victim’s bag.
► A 26-year-old man had his laptop, and checks worth $10,000, stolen from his gym locker as he worked out at Equinox at 14 Wall St. The young man told officers that when he returned to his locker, at about 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 16, he found his laptop and checks missing, though the lock was still secured. Police said his lock may have been picked.