BENSONHURST, Brooklyn – Cops are looking for a man wanted in a string of robberies since last Thursday, all while pretending to be an NYPD officer.
Most recently, the NYPD says the fake cop last struck Tuesday morning around 1 a.m. when he waked into a deli on 63-18 18th Ave. and tried to get money from a deli clerk at the Gourmet Deli Grill.
Exclusive surveillance video obtained by PIX11 captured the man while inside the grocery appearing to make a phone call. The individual, described to be in his 30s, was wearing a red vest and an NYPD shirt, police say. He did not have a firearm on him.
The faux officer ran away after a store employee threatened to call the real police. There were no injuries in the incident.
"He came inside said 'I am NYPD I want to check for [cigarettes],' Abdulrahman Muthana, the store clerk on duty said. "I forget to tell him let me see proof of ID and he showed me his [shirt] that said NYPD. I called my friends to help me because I am by myself."
"He came inside asking for permission going behind the counter asking for stuff, looking for the money,"Abdulamalik Alomari, a witness said. [He] told him to start counting money in the back and that's when I told my friend this is suspicious. He shouldn't be inside there unless he has a badge or a search warrant."
The latest attempt by the individual marks the fifth time in less than a week in Bensonhurst and Coney Island neighborhoods, police say. In each instance, police say the thief announces he's conducting a compliance check for tax stamps on cigarettes. He then attempts to empty the cash drawers and tells the clerk he needs to bring the money to the local precinct to count it.
In the four previous instances before Tuesday, he's netted more than $4,500 and never returns.
The alleged police impersonator first struck a laundromat on 20th Avenue and took $300 on Thursday, the NYPD said. He robbed a grocery at 2901 W. 21st St. on Saturday and swiped about $2,500 from them, police said. He moved on to a bodega on New Utrecht Ave. and allegedly ran away with $1,500 cash and cigarettes Sunday evening. The man then stole $240 cash and lotto tickets on Monday around 1 p.m., according to police.
The NYPD International Affairs Bureau sent officers to the scene at the Gourmet Deli Grill on 18th Avenue to interview victims. Police say it's standard for the IAB to investigate anytime someone is impersonating a police officer.
The NYPD warns business owners they will never demand to take money from a store in a real cigarette tax compliance check.