A 27-year-old Surrey man was arrested after stealing an interact machine from Parksville’s Chuffin Cafe in broad daylight Thursday, according to Oceanside RCMP.
And now cafe owner Gayna Thompson is left with a $400 bill to replace the stolen machine.
Alycia Matthews, who was serving the suspect, said the man entered the restaurant with a woman, who looked around 25 years old, and a toddler just before noon.
“They shared a cup of coffee,” Matthews told The NEWS Saturday. “That was reg flag number one.”
Matthews said the couple took turns going to the washroom and kept an eye on the service staff.
“I got a feeling from them,” said Matthews. “But I really thought they were just going to steal, maybe, toilet paper.”
Matthews was serving four tables at the time, but continued to check on the couple and their baby.
When Matthews went to the kitchen to get food, she said she heard the doorbell ring and from the corner of her eye she saw the couple leaving the restaurant. She found a handful of nickels on their table, amounting to 50 cents at most, and saw the woman running towards the back alley.
“I turned and looked at the debit machine and it was gone,” said Matthews. “So I ran out the door because I knew they could only have gone so far.”
Matthews said she caught the woman just as she was getting into a dark coloured SUV.
“I confronted her and said ‘give me back my debit machine,'” Matthews said.
According to Matthews, the woman denied taking the machine and left in the SUV.
Matthews memorized the vehicle’s license plate number.
RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said police used that information to track down the culprit.
“Police went to a residence on Horne Lake Road and a male was arrested,” he said.
Foreman said debit machines are “occasionally” stolen, but not common targets of thieves, adding he’s “not sure of their (the suspects) angle.”
Thompson, who owns Chuffin Cafe, said she called the interact company and deactivated the machine immediately so there is no way of accessing any credit or debit card numbers from the machine.
“They (the suspects) can’t do anything with the machine so really it inconvenienced a bunch of people for very little profit,” said Matthews, adding she’s irate the restaurant is on the hook with a $400 bill to replace the machine. “Its infuriating as a small business.”
Foreman said the suspect was released on a promise to appear in court for theft and the investigation is ongoing.