(WSVN) - A South Florida business owner says he knows who took thousands of dollars worth of equipment from his restaurant. While police are investigating, his employees are afraid it could happen again.
7’s Karen Hensel investigates.
Munchie is the face of Munchie’s Pizza Club in Fort Lauderdale.
It’s a restaurant by day and club at night.
But Munchie’s is being dogged by former business partners, and the owner says his employees are concerned.
Steve Berke: “They’re nervous about these people coming back in here and hurting them.”
Back in March, surveillance video shows a man walking around inside the restaurant when it was closed. He props open the front door and 12 people walk in.
They grab equipment around the DJ stage and walk out.
Steve Berke: “They took LED processors, they took a laptop computer, they took money, they took all kinds of production equipment.”
Police reports say an employee showed up while it was happening. He was injured when he tried to stop the group.
Steve Berke: “One of the perpetrators, swung one of our LED panels at him and cut him up on his arms.”
Thankfully that employee recovered, but Steve says his workers were left terrified again in August. A group of people walked in, unbolted an LED screen off the wall and loaded it onto a truck waiting at the corner.
Steve Berke: While we were open for business, while we had patrons inside.”
An employee tries to close the doors, but the group forces them open and two men walk out with the LED screen.
According to police reports, employees identified two of the people in the group as Nelson Dejesus Avalo Jr. and Peter Maxwell Verna.
They have a business called Collegiate Nightlife LLC.
Steve Berke: “We had hire them to promote certain nights.”
Steve told police he was in the process of renegotiating the restaurant’s contract with the company for the spring break season. But he and Avalo Jr. couldn’t come to an agreement.
Police are investigating if it has something to do with the equipment being taken.
Steve Berke: “There was a process to file a police report, and even though we had them on camera, they, because they said, ‘Oh, well, some of the stuff was theirs, That might be a civil matter.’ While some of the equipment belonged to them, a lot of it was ours.”
We called and emailed Avalo Jr. and Verna. They didn’t answer our messages.
No one else caught on video has been identified, and no arrests have been made.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department tells 7News: “…Due to the different aspects of the case (civil vs criminal), it has taken some time to gather all of the available information from the victim and witnesses.”
Steve says the wait has been tough for his employees.
Steve Berke: “Right. They’ve come twice and they are nervous.”
Steve quickly replaced the equipment that was taken but restoring his employees’ peace of mind may take some time.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
Fort Lauderdale Police on Tuesday told 7News they referred the case to the State Attorney’s Office.
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