PORT OF SPAIN –– Police are now on the lookout for people who may have been duped into buying what they thought were high-priced flat screen televisions for use as CCTV monitors at cut rate prices.
The 177 flat screen televisions sets were in fact part of $5 million in items stolen by bandits from the Hyatt Regency hotel’s warehouse last week.
With three days to go before Christmas, residents in East Port of Spain thought they were getting a steal of a deal, having paid between $500 and $800 for the 55 and 65-inch LCD televisions, which are sold in some stores at between $12,000 and $18,000.
Thinking that they were given a steal of a deal, the buyers, some of whom were from Beetham Gardens, later discovered that their new Christmas gifts were not programmed for residential use. Many of them decided to use the TVs as monitors for CCTV cameras but may now run afoul of the law if caught.
The robbery was committed last Friday (December 16) by a group of brazen bandits at the hotel’s Warner Village, Bejucal warehouse. The warehouse was used to store brand new items which were to be installed and outfitted as part of the a major physical upgrade planned by the hotel.
Among the items stolen were 177 flat screen televisions, eight chandeliers and 335 artwork frames valued at US$ 552,609.03. Other miscellaneous items which were also carted away bring the total figure to $5 million, the T&T Guardian was told.
The hotel contracted a French firm to supply and outfit the items for its refurbishment exercise.
Hyatt Regency is owned by the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott).
A source told the Trinidad Guardian that the thieves entered the compound of the warehouse, where they held up and hog-tied three security guards and then disconnected the building’s CCTV cameras.
The bandits then gained entry into the building by cutting the locks on the doors. Seconds later, two trucks and 12 cars pulled into and outside the compound and the items were hastily loaded onto the vehicles, following which the thieves made good their escape.
“Some people are of the firm view that it is an inside job. But the joke is the LCD television sets they stole are virtually useless to them because it is not programmed for residential use. What is amazing is that the thieves did not cover their faces, nor did they hid the number plates of the vehicles,” the source said.
Fortunately, the robbery was captured on the closed circuit televisions of nearby residents, which was submitted to the Chaguanas police.
“That is what the perpetrators did not bargain for,” the source said.
Photographs taken from the video, which the T&T Guardian obtained, showed the bandits committing the robbery.
While some of the items may yet be recovered, the source said the way the thieves hurriedly packed the items into the vehicle, they were certain a number of televisions were damaged.
“More than likely, Hyatt would have to re-order all the items that were stolen.”
The source said, none of the items were insured.
Some of the television sets were sold at reduced prices to unsuspecting Beetham Gardens residents between last week and yesterday.
“They were sold for peanuts compared to its original price of between $12,000 to $18,000. When the buyers realised they could not use the TVs, they began selling it as monitors for surveillance cameras.”
The Hyatt Regency hotel is currently doing a major refurbishment exercise, as part of a requirement that it undergo such exercises every seven years, a source told the T&T Guardian yesterday.
On the Hyatt’s website, a notice states the hotel is undergoing a refurbishment exercise, which will be done in phases and completed at the end of April 2017.
Areas to be refurbished are the hotel’s entrance, lobby, bar, sushi bar, restaurant and its 428 luxurious guest rooms.
Upon receipt of the items, the hotel stored them in its warehouse, which they have been using for years.
On Tuesday, officers from the Port of Spain Criminal Investigation Department (CID), led by Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Boxhill and ASP Ajith Persad, Sergeant Austin, arrested five people after they went to Romain Lands, Morvant, executed a search warrant and seized a 65-inch television set identified as one stolen from the warehouse.
Two people in Beetham Gardens were also arrested yesterday after police recovered another 65-inch television.
Persad said yesterday the investigations are ongoing.
Marketing communications manager of Hyatt, Neemah Persad, admitted yesterday that the robbery had taken place, but opted not to issue a statement as the matter was still being investigated.
Chairman of Udecott Noel Garcia refused comment.