By Ben Fractenberg and Julie Shapiro
EAST VILLAGE — This garbage man doesn't just pick up the trash.
Sanitation Department worker Michael Maldonado stole an iPad from an East Village cafe Friday morning after he asked to be let in to use the bathroom, police said.
When Maldonado, 38, knocked on the door of Cafe Cortadito, at 210 E. Third St. near Avenue B, about 11:30 a.m. Friday, owner Ricardo Arias immediately let him in because he was wearing a city uniform, said Arias' wife, Patricia Valencia.
Arias walked Maldonado back to the bathroom, which Valencia was cleaning while her iPad rested on a shelf nearby inside the restroom.
Valencia left the bathroom so Maldonado could use it, but she immediately realized she forgot to take the prized device with her, she said.
As soon as Maldonado finished in the bathroom, Valencia rushed in and found her iPad gone. She immediately turned and grabbed Maldonado before he left the cafe.
"I held his hand and said, 'Give me back my iPad,'" Valencia, 42, recalled from the cafe Friday afternoon. "He said, 'I'm sorry. I was holding it.'"
Maldonado then lifted up his shirt and revealed the iPad tucked into the waistband of his pants, Valencia said. He pulled it out, handed it back to Valencia and then left the cafe.
Even though Maldonado returned the iPad, Arias was furious and ran after him, saying, "How could you do this to us?" but Maldonado just laughed, Valencia said.
Arias, 43, decided to call 911, and as he was on the phone he saw Maldonado's garbage truck pull away and head east down East Third Street. He flagged down a police car and along with two detectives chased the garbage truck to the next block, between Avenue A and Avenue B, where the police stopped the truck and arrested Maldonado about 11:40 a.m., Valencia and police said.
He was charged with petit larceny, police said.
Valencia said she was shocked that a Sanitation Department employee would steal.
"How could you think a city worker would do this?" Valencia said. "Unbelievable."
Maldonado's supervisor at the Sanitation Department stopped by the cafe Friday afternoon to apologize, Valencia added.