|This area is for a "smash and grab" burglary that occurred at a TGI Friday's Restaurant between Tunin Street and Mariposa Court along Dixie Highway in Coral Gables, Florida during the late night of February 10 - 11, 2005. This occurred when myself along with storm chasing associates Doug Kiesling (BNVN), Jason Foster (Weather Warrior), Jeff Gammons (with the former "Weathervine" group), and Kersten Mcclung (Jeff's girlfriend at the time) were dining in the restaurant just before 1:00 AM EST (February 11, 2005).
This happened after we attended the reception / party at Resident Artists Gallery in Coco-Walk in Coconut Grove, Florida for hurricane footage and equipment demonstrations. The damage and loss was discovered at about 1:26 AM EST on February 11. Read the detailed story on this terrible and extremely expensive loss on my behalf as well has information that can help with this case.
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Coral Gables Police - CASE # 05-1344 - Officer "M Bajuja" - Detective "Ted Nguyen"
Date Of Loss - February 11, 2005 - 1:26 AM EST
* TGI Friday's is a very popular restaurant chain in both the US, UK, and some other locations. Specializing in American cousine, it caters to both the active youth crowd as well as families of all ages at a modest price. The restaurants have a cozy atmosphere and full service bar at most locations. The store front of many TGI Friday's appears like the picture above, with the trademark red and white striping and logo reflected in both the sign and store front itself. Although this is NOT the same TGI Friday's as the actual one in Coral Gables, but it's layout is nearly identical and can be used for reference. My vehicle, relative to the picture above, at the time of burglary, was parked to the far right and in front of the disabled parking spots under a well lit area.
* The graphic above shows a map of the area of Coral Gables, Florida south of Miami in Miami-Dade county. The map to the left is a wide view showing the location of TGI Friday's relative to Coral Gables and surrounding communities. The map to the right shows the actual block the TGI Friday's restaurant is located on. The restaurant is in a shopping center on the southeast side of Dixie Highway between Tunin Street and Mariposa (as in Spanish for "butterfly") Court. This is across from the metrorail and very close to the University of Miami campus.
* The Miami Film Festival is part of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, or the "NYIIFVF". Information on this can be found at their site at WWW.NYFILMVIDEO.COM. The picture above is Jeff Gammons and myself (in the black shirt) organizing display of equipment and showing videos about hurricane chasing, focusing on hurricane Charley in 2004. This was the same evening (February 10) that the burglary occurred. The art festival itself was at the Resident Art Gallery in Coco Walk in Cococnut Grove, Florida and is about 3 miles north of where the actual burglary took place.
* Above is a graphic banner I put together showing the method used to enter the vehicle as well as a preliminary list of items stolen. The banner was placed on several web sites, including WWW.STORMTRACK.ORG. The total estimated loss of the items (new value) was up to near $10,000 dollars but has been adjusted to about $8,700. Damage to the windows totaled $658 as per State Farm Insurance.
* During the evening of February 10, 2005 myself, Doug Kiesling with WWW.BNVN.COM, Jason Foster with WWW.WEATHERWARRIOR.NET, Jeff Gammons with the former "Weathervine" group, and Jeff's fiance at the time, Kersten Mcclung, attended the reception / party at Resident Artists Gallery in Coco-Walk in Coconut Grove, Florida. After the event ended, and exited with a sucessful turnout, we all celebrated at about 12:00 AM at TGI Friday's Restaurant at 1250 S Dixie Hwy in Coral Gables, Florida. This is between Tunin Street and Mariposa Court along South Dixie Highway across from the elevated Metro-Rail and next to the Sound Advice electronics store.
* I was highly reluctant on eating in a "sit down" restaurant at that time in Miami-Dade county due to the equipment in our vehicles. I suggested fast food the whole night, then "gave-in" to the temptation as Doug with BNVN would treat us all to the late dinner. After eating and walking back to our vehicles, parked in a well lit area IN FRONT of the resturant, locked and secured, I found my drivers side window smashed and the gear, sitting on the floor and covered with a towel, used in the demonstrations that night, missing. This was discovered at approximately 1:26 AM. My vehicle at the time was a 2004 Ford Focus Station Wagon, unluckily being the only one affected out of two others (Doug Kiesling's rental and Jeff Gammmons Toyota).
* The Coral Gables police were immediately notified as a passing patrol car (officer M Baluja) was flagged down by myself. A police report and investigation ensued (case number is 05-1344 with detective Ted Nguyen). Anyone providing information about who could be responsible is advised to contact the Coral Gables Police Department at (305) 442-1600 or by contacting me personally. A reward will be provided if an arrest is made and / or and of the items recovered.
|This is a picture of a Sony HDR-FX1 high-end (professional grade) HD (High Definition) digital camcorder. The picture is NOT the actual camera stolen but identical in make and model as well as appearance. The HDR-FX1 HD digital camcorder sold for about $3,700 at the time of acquisition in January 2005. This stolen camcorder was in excellent condition, and only had barely noticeable scratches on the tripod mount screw at the bottom of the unit. The serial number of the stolen HDR-FX1 camcorder is S01-1323375-A. This was also reported to SONY as a stolen product in case anyone turns the stolen unit in for repairs and that same serial number shows up.|
|This is a picture of a Sony DCR-TRV-110 Digital-8 (consumer grade) camcorder. This is not a picture of the actual stolen camcorder but is a picture of the exact same make and model. The stolen unit was acquired back in August 1999 at a cost of about $1,100 at that time. This camcorder is no longer produced by Sony, but can be found on various used electronics sales, including Ebay, for an average of about $220. The stolen camcorder also had a bad IEEE (Firewire) port as well as water damage to the stereo microphones causing intermittant audio problems. No serial number is given for this unit.|
|This is a picture of a Canon Rebel 2000 EOS Model single lens reflex (SLR) 35mm camera. It is consumer grade and came with its own 28-150mm lens as a package. It was acquired in May 2000 for a price of about $300 (for the camera outfit including the body and the lens). The picture here is identical to the stolen camera, including the lens (Sigma), but NOT the actual stolen unit. The camera was in excellent condition at the time of theft. No serial number is available for this camera.|
|This is a picture of a FujiFilm Finepix s3800 (3.8 Mega-Pixels) Model digital camera. It is consumer grade and came with its own 32 MB XD memory chip. It was acquired in September 2003 for a price of about $300. The picture here is identical to the stolen camera and is NOT the actual stolen unit. The camera was in excellent condition at the time of theft. No serial number is available for this camera.|
|This is a picture of a Sony Vaio PCGRT100P laptop. The picture is NOT the actual unit stolen but identical in make and model as well as appearance. The stolen laptop was in excellent condition, equipped with a 2.8 GHz P4 CPU, 512 MB RAM, 40 GB HD, USB 2.0, IEEE (Firewire) port, 17" LCD, Microsoft Windows XP Professional, and a custom package of installed software ranging from video editing to web design. The stolen Sony Vaio PCGRT100P model laptop has a serial number of A222593J. The new value of this unit was about $1,600 at the time of its acquisition in July 2003. This loss and serial number was also reported to SONY in case a repair request on such stolen merchandise is found.|
|This is a picture of an Icom T-81A Model quad-band (amateur) hand-held (HT) radio. This is used for HAM radio operations, and has a 1 or 5 watt capability over all HAM radio bands. Capable FM frequencies are 6m, 2m, 70cm, and 30cm for transmit and receive while being able to receive the AM airband and FM wideband (radio stations). The picture is NOT the actual unit stolen but identical in make and model as well as appearance. It has been modified to transmit on other VHF and FRS frequencies and the unit was in excellent condition except for a slight bend in the "rubber-duck" antenna. The unit was acquired in September 2001 for $600. No serial number is available.|
|This is a picture of a Comp USA USB 2x external 3.5" floppy disk drive. This is used so a floppy disk can be used via a free USB port on any laptop computer that does not have such a floppy drive built-in. The picture is NOT the actual external floppy drive stolen but identical in make and model as well as appearance. The stolen external floppy unit was acquired in July 2003 for about $60. No serial number is available.|
|This is a picture of the newer Delorme "Earthmate" used for on the road GPS navigation. This attaches to a free USB port on any computer (usually a laptop) allowing naviagation via accompanying software. The picture is NOT the actual GPS module but identical in make and model as well as appearance. The stolen GPS, cable, and software was acquired in May 2003 for about $150. No serial number is available.|
|This is a picture of a Comp USA USB and IEEE (Firewire) compatible external 3.5" hard disk drive enclosure which included a 40 GB hard disk drive. This is used for external and portable storage via a free USB (or IEEE Firewire) port on any laptop or desktop computer. The picture is NOT the actual external hard disk drive stolen but identical in make and model as well as appearance. The stolen external drive unit (enclosure and 40 GB hard drive within) was acquired in October 2005 for about $200. No serial number is available.|
|This is a picture of two Motorola FRS (Family Radio Service) handheld (HT) radios. These are used for short distance communications and can also be considered a "walkie-talkie" as no licensing is required to use it. The picture is NOT of the actual radios stolen but shows similar radios that are almost identical in make and model as well as appearance. The stolen radios were acquired in May 2000 for about $60. No serial number(s) are available.|
|This is a picture of three cases used to hold all the items that were stolen in this burglary. The cases in this picture include a hard-case (back) from Ritz Camera, aquired in October 1999 for about $60, a Quantaray soft camcorder / camera bag (front), aqcuired in January 2005 for $100, and a Samsonite ballistic-nylon laptop bag (left), acquired in August 2003 for about $50. The picture does NOT show the actual cases but idential ones in terms of make and model as well as appearance. Unfortunately, all items stolen were in these three cases, so all the thief (or thieves) had to do was break the window, grab the three cases from the vehicle floor, and run!|
|This is a picture of three major memory cards that were stolen along with other accessories. One was a 128 MB XD card (left), acquired in October 2003 for $100, the next a 32 MB Sandisk memory card (right), acquired in December 2002 for about $50, and finally a 128 MB "Magic Gate" Sony memory stick (front), acquired in January 2004 for about $100. The items shown here are NOT the actual stolen items, but nearly exact illustrations of them in terms of make, model, and appearance. No serial numbers are available for these memory chips.|
|This is a picture of two camera accessory items. The left item is a window / clip mount for any standard tripod mount on any camera (preferably a small camcorder, SLR, or digital camera), and to its right, a Sigma 28-300mm SLR lens. The window mount was acquired in March or 2004 and was about $30. The Sigma 28-300mm lens was acquired in May of 2000 at about $200 and was purchased separately, although for, the 35mm Canon Rebel SLR that was also stolen here. The items shown here are NOT the actual stolen items, but nearly exact illustrations of them in terms of make, model, and appearance. No serial numbers are available for these items.|
|This is a picture of three types of cables, and there were many cables and connectors among the stolen items. The basic items shown here are a standard RCA dub cable (left), a Radio Shack USB / Serial adaptor (upper right), and a serial connector for a Sony T-60D Cellular phone (lower right). The items shown here are only visual depictions for the actual stolen items. They are NOT the actual stolen items themselves. The total cost of all cables and connectors is roughly $150, with the cellular connector costing $40 and the Radio Shack USB / Serial adaptor being $50 at times of their acquisition.|
|This is a picture of another three accessory items included in the burglary. The first was the power supply / battery charger for the Sony camcorders (upper right). There were two of these chargers among the stolen items. The second item was a Sony "Info Lithium" NP-970 camcorder battery (upper left), and the third another Sony "Info Lithium" NP-570 capcorder battery (front). The picture does NOT show the actual stolen items, just similar visual examples of the same make, model, and appearance. The NP-570 and NP-970 batteries were both acquired in January 2005 at costs of $40 and $100, respectively. The battery chargers, have to be estimated since they came with the camcorder(s), but if replaced, would cost about $50. No serial numbers are available for these items.|
* The annotated diagram above shows two pictures. To the left is the broken rear-driver's side window and to the right shows where the items were stolen from in the vehicle. A full police report (initiated by M Baluja) was filed with the Coral Gables Police Department and the case handed over to a detective. The detective (Ted Nguyen) ran the "basic" police searches such as looking through pawn shops as well as "anything suspicious" in and around Coral Gables immediately after the burglary. Nothing came up. Meanwhile, repairs to my vehicle were done in a timely manner by State Farm Insurance (auto), which luckily offered a comprehensive glass-replacement plan and handled the $658 repair costs promptly. The property loss was claimed with Tower Hill Insurance (homeowners) and a claim for that was initiated. This was all accomplished the following day into the next week after the theft and loss of the items. All this happened when I was between jobs, so there was no way I could replace anything stolen at the time.
* With nothing showing up in Coral Gables in terms of item recovery, my top priority was to settle the loss of the items via my "personal contents" clause on my homeowner's insurance policy, provided by Tower Hill Insurance. This required submittal of a "loss form", listing the stolen items and their value, as well as a police report, plus pertaining or supporting documentation (reciepts, manuals, pictures, etc). By March of 2005, I was working with Tower Hill Insurance and made a recorded statemant on what happened that night of Feburary 11 with the adjuster. After several calls, Tower Hill decided to place my claim under investigation after I mentioned being a "storm chaser". Not at all did I discuss money being made with any of the stolen equipment. The claim was turned over to an investigator after that.
* Realizing my insurance company (Tower Hill) was going to take much longer for my (hopeful at the time) structured settlement, I began replacing the stolen items with their equivalents. The HDR-FX1 HD camcorder was replaced with the same model, the Sony DCR-TRV-110 was replaced with a used DCR-TRV-120 off Ebay (which did have some problems), a Canon Digital (6 Mega Pixel) Rebel 2000 replaced both the origial stolen SLR and Fuji Digital cameras, and a Sony Vaio PCG-K45 replaced the stolen laptop. Most accessories, including lenses, cabling, adapters, batteries, and the Delorme GPS were also replaced with similar or same models. The total of all these was a bit cheaper at about $7,000 and was put on my credit card (Discover) after taking up a new good-paying job in Lakeland, Florida.
* By mid-May of 2005, an investigator from Tower Hill insurance finally contacted me telling me my claim was nearly done. An investigator for my claim who worked in Miami appointed the documents to a Tampa based investigator, who met with me at my office on May 12, 2005. As the investigator recorded me in an interview, I explaied in detail the loss and where it happened, but never said I made money storm chasing if he asked me. I saw the hurricane Charley DVD and September's Fury project irrelevant since the camera used to produce those videos was the beat-up Sony DCR-TRV-110 that was stolen. After the interview, the investigator pulled out screen prints (most likely from "Google" searches) of my web site (this SKY-CHASER site) and others of those I am associated with (such as BNVN and formerly "Weathervine"). He slapped down all my DVD sales pages and documentation on storm chasing with a serious face. He also pointed out to the "fraud policy" on one of my claim forms and pointed out the part about it being a "3rd Degree Felony". I began crying like a kid in a principle's office as he denied my claim, and told me he was reporting me to the state of FL for insurance fraud. All this knowing some "thug" in Miami still has all my stolen gear!
* As of the summer of 2005, all items stolen on February 11, 2005 were never recovered. I am scared that I will hear something about the fraud from either Tower Hill Insurance or the State of Florida. It also took me many months and many long hours to pay off the balance on my credit card, since my insurance company forced me to withdraw the claim. I was also told since I got no money they were just trying to scare me. The only good thing out of all this was that the equipment was replaced just in time before my first trip to the central USA on May 13 of 2005 and made its debut in the storm chasing environment, HD style.
* The insurance industry is facing some of the darkest moments in history as of 2004 and 2005. First of all, many records in the "most expensive" natural disasters have been shattered those years, exclusively by tropical cyclones (hurricanes). Florida being singled out the most in such hurricane disasters, insurance companies there are stuggling the most. With that said, I will get into why chosing the right insurance and coverage is so important.
* First of all, not all insurance companies are the same. You get "what you paid for" with insurance too, especially when it comes to service. Generally, insurance premiums are rising at an alarming rate, and when a claim does come in, many companies will find any opportunity NOT TO PAY that claim! This is particularly notorious in medical insurance, then on to homeowner's, and (less likely) with auto insurance. With that said, the type of insurance company and their financial status can also make a big difference in service.
* After hurricane Andrew back in 1992, many insurance companies with policies in south Florida had major financial problems, forcing them to either go bankrupt, pull out of Florida (drop newer customers), or stop writing policies there altogether. This went on for YEARS after hurricane Andrew. Shopping for homeowner's insurance was an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE when I bought my first home in Broward County, Florida in 2000 and tried to purchase a NEW policy. The JUA, or "Joint Underwriter's Association" did not provide any help as my first policy with Regency Insurance was dropped after the first year as that company pulled out of Florida. Searching and searching turned up no results, phone-slamming, and frustration.
* Trying with the bigger insurance companies, such as Traveler's, State Farm, and Allstate simply stated the "no new policy in Florida" answers, even though I had a auto policy with State Farm for years. Finally, after many, MANY calls, I found Tower Hill insurance and they were able to underwrite a new policy for me. I never heard of "Tower Hill" before, and was discouraged by the high deductibles and restrictions ($3,000 hurricane deductible, no dog allowed, etc), but had NO OTHER CHOICE since I had to have insurance on my home and it's contents since I am mortgaging it.
* In this case here, with the burglary, two things happened. First of all, I was with a lower-grade insurance company, and customer service was NOT one of their priorities. Had this been State Farm insurance, the claim probably would NOT have gone to investigation, and my equipment would have been settled with a check very quickly (remember, I have them for my auto insurance, and they repaired my vehicle less than 24 hours after the actual loss)! Remember, the "cheaper" an insurance company is, the more they will NOT want to PAY. Secondly, I failed to purchase additional coverage for "peronal equipment used for business", which is a second "rider" policy on top of the personal items loss coverage. The profits from my hurricane chases in 2004 (hurricane Charley and "September's Fury" DVDs) made me ineligible for the personal items loss.
* With the painful experience of not only not getting paid with my long-awaited settlement, which never happened, I was treated as a person attempting to file a fraudulent claim since I never told my insurance company (Tower Hill) about the DVD sales, since I did not know it was relevant at the time of the loss. This was all new to me then, since I only used ONE camera (the old Sony DCR-TRV-110, the LEAST valuable item in the claim list) out of many other stolen items in the filming during the 2004 hurricane chasing.
* The lessons learned here are two: Number one, make sure you shop and make sure the insurance company you choose is reliable, and a reputable comany. Second, make your you are covered SUFFICIENTLY for your home, auto, and business. Now the term "business" here is NOT a store you own or job you run! It is ANY MONEY made using a covered item, whether it's a camera for freelance photography, as in my case, or a room in your home you may use as a part-time office (such as sewing, video editing, etc). Trust me, getting pinned for fraud instead of getting a check while thinking about the thief in Miami who has your stuff is not fun - Cover yourself RIGHT!
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