Some savvy burglar broke into Sun Sew Vac appliance store and South Valley Cleaners last Thursday night by breaking through inside drywall after gaining entry to a neighboring property under renovation in the revitalized Mount Vernon Plaza. However, Fairfax County Police think they may have captured the culprit attempting a repeat performance.
Sometime between closing at 6 p.m. and reopening Friday, Jan. 20, both businesses were entered by a thief who gained access through the boarded-up former PoBoy restaurant. Using the plywood-covered windows of the former eatery as a shield, the thief entered each of the other establishments, pilfered their cash registers, and left by the same route undetected.
"I came in Friday morning and discovered they had busted through the wall in the back storage area. They didn't do any other damage to the store. They only took what money was in the register which was about $133," said Robert Hines, owner, Sun Sew Vac, 7723 Richmond Highway.
"They passed up a lot of valuable equipment to get to the money," he said. "I've been in business 30 years and have been burglarized twice before and robbed once at gun point."
Sun Sew Vac specializes in selling, renting and repairing vacuum cleaners, sewing machines and other appliances. The store faces Richmond Highway with the interior plainly visible from both the highway and internal service road.
John Yoo, owner, South Valley Cleaners, also suffered no interior damage except the hole punched through the rear wall of his establishment at 7723 Richmond Highway. The cleaners faces one of the main driveways into Mount Vernon Plaza and forms an "L" with Sun Sew Vac. The former PoBoy restaurant is the corner property sharing interior walls with the two targeted businesses.
"Who ever did this must be pretty skinny because the hole was not very big. I think the door to PoBoy was mistakenly left unlocked and that's how they got in. They only took about $60 that was in the register. It was mostly change," Yoo said.
LIEUTENANT MICHAEL PROFFITT, Fairfax County Police, Mount Vernon Station, verified the burglar entered through an unlocked door at the corner property and "was able to work undetected because of the plywood covering the front of the former PoBoy restaurant."
However, this was only one of a series of such commercial burglaries in the Hybla valley area detectives from the Criminal Investigations Section have been tracking since December, according to Proffitt.
As a result, Michael Anthony Phillips, 40, of Windbreak Drive, Alexandria, was arrested Monday night, Proffitt said.
Phillips was observed "about midnight attempting to break into the Stevens' Auto Clinic, 7419 Richmond Highway, by prying the rear door," according to Proffitt. Stevens' Auto Clinic is only a short walk from Phillips home, police said.
"Phillips was developed as a possible suspect and detectives along with members of the Special Enforcement Team began monitoring his movements," Proffitt said. As a patrol unit approached Stevens' Auto Clinic Monday night, "Phillips fled and was arrested by police on Lockheed Boulevard near the intersection with Richmond Highway," according to Proffitt.
"In his possession at the time of his arrest were various tools which could be used to force entry. Subsequent interview by detectives resulted in burglary charges being placed against Phillips," along with "possession of burglary tools," Proffitt noted in his report.
In addition to the charge of burglary applicable to Stevens' Auto Clinic, police have subsequently charged Phillips with burglary of the following businesses on the dates indicated:
* Peking Duck Restaurant, 7531 Richmond Highway on Dec. 6,
* A-1 Groceries, 2919 Arlington Drive on Dec. 6,
* Vacant business, 2905 Arlington Drive on Jan. 19, and
* Edith's Gift Store, 2903 Arlington Drive on Jan. 19.
Investigations are continuing to determine if Phillips will be charged with burglaries at Todos Market, 7849 Richmond Highway on Jan. 4 and African Caribbean Market, 7611 Richmond Highway on Jan. 10, according to police. These are in addition to the Jan. 19 break-ins at South Valley Cleaners and Sun Sew Vac.
Phillips is currently in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center with no bond, according to Proffitt.