UPDATE, February 3, 2010: Man who stole veterans' TV is back in jail again
UPDATE, September 12, 2008: Man who stole vets' TV gets prison time
The suspect in the theft of a 52-inch flat-screen TV from the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been charged.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The man charged Monday with stealing a wide-screen television from the veterans nursing home was turned in by several family members and co-workers, according to federal court documents.
Jeffry Polak, 44, a veteran who has been to the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center for care, was identified by as many as five family members and three men he worked with, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Dressed in Green Bay Packers slippers and shackled at the wrists and ankles, Polak made his first appearance on charges of felony theft of government property in connection with dressing up as a maintenance worker and carting out a 52-inch Samsung LCD set, valued at $3,600.
If convicted, Polak would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The tips on Polak started rolling in shortly after details of the theft were published in the Journal Sentinel and surveillance video was released, according to the complaint.
Polak was arrested at his Bay View home by U.S. marshals at about noon Monday. He was released on a signature bond later in the day and is expected to be indicted by the grand jury next week, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Koenig.
Search warrants were being executed Monday by agents from Veterans Affairs, which is investigating the case. Polak told relatives he threw the television in a landfill, but investigators came up empty when they went to the dump, the complaint said.
"Stealing from old people is pretty bad," Koenig said. "Stealing from old veterans is reprehensible. He is a veteran and stealing from other veterans. It's hard to understand."
...A man dressed in maintenance clothing removed the television from the wall of the nursing home at 4 p.m. April 4, loaded it onto a handcart and rolled it out. He was questioned by at least one resident and two VA employees. He told them he was getting the television fixed.
The day the article was published in late April, investigators started getting tips, including from people he worked with at Milwaukee Forge.
Investigators talked to Polak's brother, who told them the suspect offered to sell him a TV. The brother refused.
Polak's parents also were interviewed and said they called Polak when they saw the surveillance video. His father said he gave Polak the handcart without knowing it was to be used in a heist. When they learned of the theft, his parents urged him to return the television, but Polak said he couldn't because he had dumped it.
...Polak has been convicted of resisting an officer and had an outstanding warrant in an Iowa drunken-driving case, officials said. His release was held up as officials researched the warrant, which in the end didn't require him to be returned to Iowa.
As he sat in court waiting on Monday, Polak read the criminal complaint to himself and at one point called a former supervisor who identified him a "bitch." Polak also said he now works nights at a slaughterhouse where he makes $22 an hour.
As a condition of his release, he must be escorted by VA police if he goes to the veterans center for care.
As soon as the surveillance video was shown and the story received attention in the media, officials starting receiving tips that led to Polak's arrest.
I still don't understand why there was such a lengthy lag time between the theft on April 4 and the release of the video to the media. It took nearly 3 weeks!
Thankfully, the delay didn't keep a number of people, including Polak's family members, from identifying him.
They did the right thing.
Next step, Polak needs to pay for his crime.