Hammer-wielding crook steals van, cash from Lauderhill auto shop

LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - Police are searching for a man who was caught on camera ransacking a South Florida auto shop before stealing cash and taking off in a customer’s transit van, early Saturday.

The entrance to USA Auto Care Center might look fine — at first. But at around 3 a.m., owner Nour Albandakji got a call from his alarm company alerting him about the break-in.

Albandakji then called the police and drove to his business, located at 7030 West Commercial Blvd. “When I arrive in front of the shop, I see one of the bay doors is open, like something exploded,” he said.

The owner then saw the mess the perpetrator left behind. “We find the cash register is broken and the equipment, the copy machine, is broken, a side of the glass is broken,” he said.

Nour Albandakji

Albandakji then looked at the surveillance video. After bashing in the glass, the subject, seen holding a hammer, is seen hopping over the counter and looking for cash. He is then seen attempting to open the register with the hammer before slamming it to the ground and emptying its contents.

But the burglar wasn’t quite done. “One of the customers’ cars has been stolen,” said Albandakji. “He just took off with the car, and the police, they said they’re searching now for him.”

Once inside the body shop, the thief grabbed the keys from the files, opened the door of a transit van, got in and backed out through the closed bay door.

Albandakji hopes someone comes forward. “It’s very hard. The business, as is, is hard,” he said. “This is really not the time.”

Police said they’re looking for a white Ford transit van. If you have any information on this burglary, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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