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Thieves Burrowed Through Deli Wall and Stole $12K, Owner Says

By Nigel Chiwaya | April 28, 2014 3:08pm
  The thieves stole cash calling cards and surveillance footage from My Deli Grocery Friday night.
My Deli Grocery Hit by Tunnel Thieves
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INWOOD — Determined thieves tunneled through the wall of an Academy Street deli Friday night and stole more than $12,000 in cash, food and calling cards, the owner said.

My Deli Grocery, located at 670 Academy St. near Broadway, was robbed of milk, more than 100 calling cards, toothpaste and more, plus cash from its ATM and cash register, police said. They also disabled the security camera and took the hard drive, ensuring that there was no trace of their identity, the shop owner said.

Shop owner Epi Ulerio said nothing seemed amiss from the outside when opened the shop about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. But once he went inside, he found a hole cut through the wall the shop shares with a vacant storefront next door.

"There were papers scattered everywhere. They left a hammer on the counter," said owner Ulerio, who has owned the shop for the past nine years with his wife Eilyn. The thieves cut the electricity, took the hard drive and tilted the surveillance cameras upward.

"These guys were good," he said.

The vacant building, a former hair salon that closed last fall, had three holes cut in the wall shared by the two buildings: one in the bathroom, one just outside of the bathroom and one by the front window, which was the one used to enter the deli.

To avoid being detected, the thieves hung up plastic tarps in the vacant building's front window.

Ulerio said he was surprised at how easy it seemed to be for the thieves to cut through the wall.

"I thought it was brick behind there," he said. "If you give me a power saw and a hammer, I think I could do that in 30 minutes."

Ulerio called the police immediately, and said detectives stayed at the shop all day, collecting evidence from the hammer and fingerprints from the deli's electrical box and ATM.

No arrests had been made as of Monday afternoon, police said.

This is not the first time an Inwood store has been hit by tunnel thieves. In January, bandits dug through two feet of brick to break into an Associated Supermarket on Broadway. Those thieves fled when the store's alarm blared.

My Deli Grocery will be installing a new alarm system Monday afternoon. In the meantime, the store's owners are worried about finances.

"We're going to be very late for the rent," Eilyn Ulerio said.