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Teens Broke Into N.J. American Legion Hall, Drank, Stole Tips Multiple Times, Police Say

ROCHELLE PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- An American Legion post in Rochelle Park, New Jersey was hit by a brazen burglary recently.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, the teens were caught on camera breaking in, drinking alcohol and stealing, and it was not the only time.

It takes a lot to shake the members of the American Legion Post 170 in Rochelle Park. But surveillance video of the suspects has done it.

The group is seen behind the bar making drinks, helping themselves to snacks, stealing from the tip jar, and hanging out after hours – until a legion member updating the surveillance system remotely happened to catch them in the act.

"First it was outrage, then it was violated," said Bob Salvini of American Legion Post 170.

The group was gone by the time police arrived, but after checking surveillance video from last month, Legion members discovered it was not the first party.

"From the video camera, we could tell they were in at least three times a week so you know, it was approximately 10 to12 times," Salvini said. "The actual ringleader, you know, happened to be the nephew of the cleaning service that we use, had the key and alarm codes, so there was no way that we could know that they were in here."

After an investigation, Rochelle Park police arrested nine people – six of them ages 18 to 20, and three juveniles.

It was little comfort to legion members, many of whom are veterans and say the nine have not only stolen from them, but from the countless people they help.

"We spend a lot of time and effort, you know, raising funds, you know, for scholarships, working in the community, you know, helping our fellow veterans -- and for somebody to come in an abuse that," Salvini said.

"We're here for one reason -- one reason only -- to take care of the veterans," said Joey Connors of American Legion Post 170, "and to come in and disrespect us for that is just not right."

Legion members estimate about $3,000 in alcohol and tips was stolen. They have since changed the locks and security condes to their building.

The post will be hosting several upcoming fundraisers including a pancake breakfast on Nov. 13 to try to make up for what was stolen.

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