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N.J. man suspected in Asian restaurant thefts around Tampa

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:59 AM
TAMPA -

John Scalise, according to investigators, worked his way up the East Coast last month, smashing large stones into glass doors at dozens of Asian restaurants and stealing cash.

Authorities said it was part of multistate crime spree that began in Broward County, moved to Hillsborough and onto South Carolina and New Jersey, where he was arrested over the weekend, along with his wife.

Investigators said he hit several restaurants in the Tampa area, including a series of break-ins along Dale Mabry Highway on Aug 18. He also is accused of stealing $35,000 in jewelry from a Tampa mall.

Scalise, 35, of Secaucus, N.J., a fugitive out of Idaho, and Kathy Garcia, 41, of Orlando, were being held at the Atlantic County Detention Facility in New Jersey.

Scalise is a suspect in at least seven burglaries at Asian restaurants in the Tampa area, and might be charged with more, according to authorities.

Among the Tampa incidents under investigation are a series of Aug. 18 robberies of Asian eateries along Dale Mabry Highway in which a burglar was seen on surveillance video smashing glass doors with a brick or rock to gain entry.  

The restaurants include: Crazy Buffet, 2702 N. Dale Mabry Highway; Matoi Sushi, 602 N. Dale Mabry Highway; Thailand Restaurant, 5252 S. Dale Mabry Highway; J&H Asian Cafe, 5224 S. Dale Mabry Highway; New China, 3801 W. Gandy Blvd.;

The Hillsborough sheriff's office suspects Scalise was involved in burglaries Aug. 18 at China One, 2774 E. Fowler Ave., and Aug. 19 at Hibachi Buffet, 13612 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.

He also is a suspect in at least two similar thefts in Temple Terrace, as well as burglaries in Broward County, South Carolina and New Jersey.

Investigators said he also left physical evidence that tied him to a burglary and jewelry theft Aug. 20 at the Sears at University Mall, on East Fowler Avenue.

Garcia was found in possession of stolen jewelry, officials said.

Bail for Scalise was set at $350,000, but he cannot be released on the outstanding fugitive warrants until they are addressed by Florida and Idaho, authorities said.

Garcia was being held with bail set at $100,000.

Detectives said they located Scalise and Garcia in New Jersey on Saturday after he burglarized six Asian restaurants in the Atlantic City suburb of Egg Harbor Township. Scalise also stole $66,000 in jewelry from a Macy's there, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

Hillsborough detectives went to Egg Harbor, where approximately $30,000 worth of jewelry from the Tampa Sears and the jewelry from Macy's were recovered. Authorities also found a mask worn in several cases in Hillsborough, $3,000 in currency and merchandise purchased with stolen money, officials said.

Egg Harbor police said they charged the pair in several robberies of Asian restaurants there as well the Macy's theft. They were also charged with numerous counts of criminal mischief, allegedly using various objects to smash glass windows and display cases to gain entry into businesses and obtain property.

Scalise and Garcia were also named as suspects in 12 cases in Broward County.

Scalise is a fugitive out of Idaho on a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon.

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