It turns out that the thieves who bagged a 3-foot tall bronze statue of a pig from a South Bay shopping mall were repeatedly caught on tape.
If a $1,000 reward for the culprits' capture wasn't enough, now the owners of Miguel's Cocina have thrown in 10 carne asada dinners to help aid the crooks who were caught closeup on surveillance video.
The theft of the $15,000 statue took place at daybreak on April 5th, and now, police believe, the pig may not have been the thieves' original target. Six hours earlier, the men checking out an ATM 40 feet away from their porcine prize.
"They came up to the ATM -- they were kind of looking at it -- you know, 'Hey, how is this framed in? How difficult will it be to take out?' " Chula Vista police spokesman Bernard Gonzales speculated. "That's an assumption on our part. They weren't there to take it out in any way that was a legal fashion. But obviously that became a little difficult for them; didn't look like something they could steal easily, but on the way out, they spotted that pig."
The pig was commissioned for the opening of the mall more than five years ago and sat in front of a bronze plaque that reads: "Eat more beef." Now that spot -- with a couple of the bolts still showing -- is covered with a trash can.
Nobody's sure how much the porker weighs, only that it took a couple of tries for the thieves to knock it over backing up in a pickup truck. It took both of them to lift it onto the truck.
The pig didn't have a name, but it was a favorite of patrons -- kids, especially -- of Miguel's and the other businesses nearby. The folks at Miguel's don't see any humor in this caper.
"If they were tring to steal an ATM out of a solid building, they probably realized that was something wrong to do," said Ed Pecus, the general manager of Miguel's Cocina. "And they probably said, 'Here's something cool.' They backed up a truck over it. Maybe it was a joke. Who knows what they were thinking? But we really want it back."
Police said they have contacted the major recyclers in the area, telling them to be on the lookout for somebody trying to turn in the statue for its meltdown value.
So far, there have been no ransom demands, either.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the pig or the suspects is asked to call the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at 888-580-8477.