Aug 31, 2023

Thieves break into gaming machine at Chicago Ridge lounge

By Jermont Terry

Updated on: August 30, 2023 / 9:48 AM / CBS Chicago

CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. (CBS) -- Crooks used crowbars to raid a gambling machine in a lounge in the southwest suburbs this past weekend.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, there are clues that the owners of the lounge hope could help catch the thieves.

Over past years, Anne Tofanelli has put in long hours at Jak's Place, her lounge at 7000 Southwest Hwy. in southwest suburban Chicago Ridge.

"I put my blood, sweat, and tears – my family," Tofanelli said. "It's a family-owned business."

This is why she was floored when her alarm went off last weekend at 4 a.m.

"And immediately looked at the cameras," Tofanelli said.

Security cameras captured thieves pulling into the lot outside Jak's Place in a dark Kia sport-utility vehicle.

"It was so brazen," Tofanelli said.

The crooks jumped out carrying crowbars – breaking in through one of four doors. And once inside, they didn't go for a register – instead, they rushed directly to the Illinois slot machines inside Jak's Place.

"They knew exactly what they were doing," Tofanelli said.

In a matter of minutes, they pried open the slots.

"Truly coming into Jak's for the jackpot," Tofanelli said.

Yet when the thieves broke the glass, they also triggered the motion sensors.

"I don't think they expected to get the alarm as loud as it was," Tofanelli said.

The high-pitched alarm sent the crooks scrambling in the dark.

"These guys were kind of tripping around," Tofanelli said.

They had just minutes before Chicago Ridge police would arrive.

"They would've been here longer if that alarm wasn't blaring in their ear," Tofanelli said.

Yet the thieves got the black cash box from one Illinois gaming machine. The video shows them leaving with the black box in hand.

"They know if they can get in there and they can get that cash box out, they're going to be able to get every dollar that's accumulated in that machine," Tofanelli said.

But it was not a jackpot for the thieves.

"The machines were emptied the day before," Tofanelli said.

As seen on surveillance video, the thieves backed the SUV into the parking lot behind the lounge. There are also condos right next door.

Tofanelli does not believe the SUV was stolen – because a closer look at the surveillance video shows the license plate was covered up.

"I feel like someone knows this car in the area," Tofanelli said. "It's a beautiful black new SUV."

The SUV has distinctive bright yellow brake pads.

Tofanelli turned over the video to Chicago Ridge police, who told her such crimes are frequent lately.

"It's happening a lot, and everywhere, and we're trying to get them," Tofanelli said. "In my heart or my gut, I think they're local."

Tofanelli believes the thieves likely stopped by once before without a crowbar. That is one reason she is putting up a $1,000 reward.

"Because maybe if someone goes after them and there's some accountability is there, it'll maybe scare other people to stop doing what they're doing," Tofanelli said.

She worries whether the thieves will return – or hit the next family-owned business.

"When safety becomes an issue for myself and my employees, there's no amount of money that's worth it," Tofanelli said.

Jermont Terry joined the CBS 2 team in October 2019. He's born and raised on Chicago's South Side. He's happy to return home to report on his community after 18 years of uncovering stories across the country.

First published on August 29, 2023 / 10:04 PM

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