Investigators: Perko's Cafe Fire, an Inside Job

March 17, 2008 9:05:29 PM PDT
The owner of a Fresno restaurant trusted him with the only "other" key to the safe. Now arson investigators say an employee not only stole from that restaurant he set it on fire.Perko's Cafe owner Mike Ruiz just can't believe that "this" could be the work of a trusted employee who worked his way up from dishwasher to Assistant Manager.

Arson investigators say they have no doubt that Troy Baumgardner gutted the North Fresno restaurant last month to cover his tracks.

Dozens of receipts were also stolen that night. Fire officials say at least one customer has already been the victim of identity theft.

Mike Ruiz, Perko's Owner: "He had receipts from the day of the burglary, the fire burned down. He had those receipts locked in a safe that was missing. Apparently he had receipts from a couple days prior to that."

The arson was just the beginning. Investigators say when they came here to search Baumgardner's home they found thousands of dollars of property stolen from construction sites and other businesses."

Everything from powerwashers to exit signs covered the lawn here on West Fir as at least half a dozen victims hauled away what was theirs'. Stolen tile also covered the floor inside. Police say some of this property was stolen just this weekend from a contractor working on a new insurance building just down the road. All of the victims stunned that this stuff was actually recovered.

Steve Stonecipher, Victim: "This is the first time in 35 years. This is actually came from two different job sites. So it's a blessing. We never get it back."

Randy Bruegman, Fresno Fire Chief: "It's an upheaval to many, many, people. He's probably out there today stealing from others."

That's why authorities say they need help to find Baumgardner.

If you see him, investigators say call the Fresno Fire Department, or, 911, right away.


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