Ex-bank was HQ for burglars
Ex-bank was HQ for burglars
By ANDREW WELLNER
Published: September 20, 2007
Last Modified: September 20, 2007 at 05:05 PM
WASILLA - When she came to work July 30 at Arctic Beauty Supply on the Parks Highway, Amber Wilson said she was surprised to find one of the store racks overturned. She thought at first that construction crews building a restaurant next door had punched a hole in the wall and knocked it over. Then she saw the waist-high hole in the drywall behind the cash register and noticed the computer monitors were missing. “I was looking around and so, of course, that’s when you kind of start panicking and then you call the police,” Wilson said.
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According to Wasilla police officer Al Wysocki, damage to the store did come from the restaurant side, but not from construction workers. Wysocki, who investigated a series of break-ins between July 28 and Aug. 12, said a group of teenagers entered the restaurant through a vent in the roof, then busted through the wall and squeezed through the 6-inch space between wall studs to enter the beauty supply store. “That’s why they only were able to get away with our flat-screen monitors, because nothing else could fit through the wall,” Wilson said. Wysocki said the burglary is one of a string perpetrated by a group of young people trespassing in a former bank they found unlocked earlier this summer. The suspected burglars used a similar modus operandi to break into the nearby Hostess Bakery, leaving a similar hole in the wall.
But Wysocki said the most damage was done at their erstwhile clubhouse, where they left behind $128,000 in damage and evidence of area burglaries.
From what suspects and witnesses are telling him, it appears the teenagers partied, drank and slept in the Prudential building, which is for sale near Mile 43 Parks Highway, Wysocki said. They made beds using boards and insulation torn from the walls.
And they broke just about everything they could - walls, doors, light fixtures, plumbing, Wysocki said. “They initially broke into the Prudential building and then they started breaking into these stores and businesses around the Prudential building,” Wysocki said. In addition to the monitors, they took mostly empty cash drawers from Arctic Beauty Supply, a cash register and trading cards from Wayne’s World of Collectibles and a radio, microwave and lots of food from the Hostess Bakery, Wysocki said. He said most of those things were found in the bank.
They also broke into Tub and Tan, he said. The computer monitors have not been recovered, though Wilson said they have been replaced.
All told, seven people are implicated in the case. Five have been charged with burglary, theft and trespassing, according to police.
All were involved to some degree with the burglaries, Wysocki said. Two are adults and five are juveniles, he said. Police identified one adult as Leland R. Gutierrez, 18, of Wasilla.
Gutierrez, arrested in late August, is scheduled for a November trial on felony counts of burglary, theft and criminal mischief and misdemeanor trespassing and criminal mischief. Information on a second adult suspect was unavailable Thursday.
Wysocki is withholding the names of the juveniles.
Over at Wayne’s World, employee Tim Hulke said thieves performed a basic “smash and grab.”
“My boss got a call at about 3 o’clock in the morning from the Mug Shot Saloon,” said Hulke, an employee of the collectibles shop. “They heard glass breaking.” Hulke went to the store with his boss to find thieves had thrown a rock through the front window and made off with the cash register and baseball, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Raw Deal trading cards, he said.
He said he set about cleaning up the broken glass, then went to see if the register had been dumped nearby, as it was likely too heavy to carry very far. That’s when he saw lights on in the Prudential building and notified police. Police pulled the teenagers from the building and the bulk of the merchandise was recovered, Hulke said, most of it unopened. “My boss was real upset about it,” he said, but then police arrested the suspects, and “after that we felt pretty good.”