Police: Man uses freezer-inspection ruse in theft attempts

State Street sign

A Madison man was arrested on attempted theft charges after he reportedly used a freezer-inspection ruse to attempt to steal from downtown restaurants, police said.

Madison police said a man who called himself “Tim” entered three State Street restaurants Monday morning claiming the freezer was malfunctioning and that he could fix it.

According to the report, “Tim” first went to Forage Kitchen at 655 State St. He told an employee there was a dangerous buildup of nitrogen related to the freezer. A Forage employee asked “Tim” in-depth questions about the dangers of nitrogen-laden valves and could tell “Tim” was fumbling for answers. The self-professed inspector said the freezer was fine and told the employee he’d grab a business card from his van but never returned.

As an officer was wrapping up his report at Forage Kitchen, dispatch said “Tim” was leaving Jamba Juice after an employee said she would need to contact the manager before allowing him to inspect their “malfunctioning” freezer.

“Tim” also went to the Which Wich sandwich shop at 411 State St. with the same ruse, police said. He reportedly quickly flashed an ID badge and told staff that the freezer was sending an alarm to his company and he suspected a buildup of nitrogen in the valves. He said it was a potentially dangerous situation that he could alleviate in a matter of minutes.

The employees cleared the store, but the manager was monitoring the restaurant’s surveillance cameras via a cellphone app, according to the report. The manager watched as he unsuccessfully tried to open a safe and the cash register. Staff re-entered the store as he was pushing buttons on the register. Police said “Tim” immediately pushed past them saying, “Should be good to go now.”

On Tuesday, an officer who had been given a description of the inspection imposter spotted him in the State Street area and arrested him. The 42-year-old man was tentatively charged with attempted theft.