Crime Watch

Fridge Thief Has to Pay for What He Ate

Oct 26, 2005
The Moscow Times

Refrigerators in communal apartments have provided five-finger discounts for many a petty thief over the years: a dollop of mayonnaise, a pilfered pickle, a slumbering flatmate's last drops of milk surreptitiously poured into the morning coffee of his early-bird neighbor.

But heisting several kilograms of meat without arousing suspicion proved to be too tall an order for one Muscovite, especially after the neighbors in his communal apartment set up a hidden web camera to catch him red-handed.

The Chertanovsky District Court has ordered Valery Fefelkin, 46, to perform one year of community service after he was found guilty of stealing two pork steaks weighing 5 kilograms from Andrei Osipov and his wife, Maria, Chertanovsky district prosecutor Olga Lavrikova said Tuesday.

The key piece of evidence in the case was footage of the theft captured by the Osipovs' web camera, which they hid on a shelf and pointed toward their refrigerator before heading to the dacha for a few days.

"They had suspected him of stealing their food for a while and decided to catch him," Lavrikova said.

On Sept. 11, the couple returned to the flat at 3 Simferopolsky Bulvar, near the Nakhimovsky Prospekt metro station in southern Moscow, and found the meat missing from the freezer.

After sifting through the web camera footage, they found the excerpts implicating Fefelkin and contacted the prosecutor's office, Lavrikova said.

"Here he is taking two towels to wipe off the fingerprints," Osipov told NTV television on Monday while showing the video on his computer.

Fefelkin was found guilty on Oct. 4, and the court order went into effect on Oct. 14, Lavrikova said.

Fefelkin declined to open the door for an NTV reporter, but in a police surveillance video shown by the channel, he was shown telling two friends that there was no way he could have stolen meat worth 1,075 rubles ($38), the amount in damages he will have to work off over the next year.

"I could never steal something worth that much," Fefelkin said in the video recording. "Maybe 200 rubles, no more."

According to Lavrikova, Fefelkin claimed in court that after drinking alcohol, he had mixed up his refrigerator with the Osipovs'.

Fefelkin, who is unemployed, will be given a job in an area of his expertise, and 10 percent of his monthly paycheck will be withheld to compensate the couple for the stolen meat, Lavrikova said.

She could not elaborate on Fefelkin's area of expertise.

Despite the food dispute, the trio are still living together in the apartment, Lavrikova said.

NTV said the Osipovs were planning to take out a mortgage and move into a new apartment.

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