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CBS News Miami Exclusive: Suspects sought in Coral Gables liquor store distraction thefts

CBS News Miami Exclusive: Suspects sought in Coral Gables liquor store distraction thefts
Exclusive: Suspects sought in Coral Gables liquor store distraction thefts 02:44

CORAL GABLES - A discouraged owner of a Coral Gables liquor store is speaking out after being victimized by robbers for the 2nd time in a month and a half and he is releasing surveillance video exclusively to CBS News Miami of the suspects in the latest case.

Chandresh Lakhani, who has run Gulf Liquors and Wine at 1535 Madruga Avenue near U.S. One and next to South Miami for 27 years, tells CBS News Miami's Peter D'Oench, "It is not really a welcome site to see some people come in and just help themselves and then they are gone."

Lakhani says his surveillance cameras captured two women who are in their 30s entering the store just after 8 p.m. last Thursday night. They look alike and dress alike and distracted his employees.

The surveillance cameras capture them lingering for a while and then from a distance, you see them putting some of the six bottles of tequila that were stolen into a large bag. They are in the store for less than 5 minutes.

Lakhani said, "One of them is over there trying to distract him by talking to him and he is by the counter and talking to him and saying this and that and you know they take off after he responds to her."

They take tequila bottles of Clase Azul and Don Julio Añejo worth $450 to $500.

"It's part and parcel of doing business but I feel bad. This is the 2nd time this has happened," he said. "In early May some other people robbed me. I went after them and it was an Audi car that backed up into me and I fell down on the ground and I had to go to the hospital. I scraped my leg and injured it and needed physical therapy."

"This time these people seemed to know what they were doing," he said. "They just went about it in a very professional manner. I think it is important to get them off the street. They could come back again because they think it is an easy rip-off here."

Lakhani was asked what he would like to say to the public.

He said, "Please help us get these girls nabbed and call Coral Gables police. It would mean a lot to me. The merchandise doesn't matter. The liquor doesn't matter. Let's just get them off the street because somebody could get hurt like I did once before."

Coral Gables police spokeswoman, officer Kelly Denham, said police are concerned and detectives are actively working on this case.

She said, "When these people walk in and they just brazenly place items in a bag and walk out as if nothing happened, past the point of sale, what else are they going to do? What is their next crime?"

She said, "If this sort of thing happens every day this could be a big loss to this owner."

She had some advice on helping owners prevent "distraction thefts" and respond to them.

She said, "Just keep an extra set of eyes out in case of distraction thefts and call police immediately after the fact."

"The great thing about law enforcement here in South Florida is we do a lot of networking with other departments," she said.

It is not known if these women have victimized other owners.

Lakhani has also posted photos of the two women inside and outside his store.

Anyone who recognizes the women should Call Coral Gables Police at (305) 442-1600 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477). 

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