Nation & World

Gotham billionaire offers $5,000 bounty for ice cream thieves

It is so hot in the Empire state that horse droppings have caught fire in upstate New York, urban cockroaches are taking flight like their tropical brethren and, as the temperatures climb to scorching highs in New York City, thieves are using their sticky fingers to purloin summer treats — pints and pints of ice cream. So far in 2016, there have been about 130 arrests for ice cream related thefts, CBS 2 reported.

One Gotham billionaire has had enough of this injustice. John Catsimatidis, the owner of supermarket chain Gristedes, announced Thursday he is offering a $5,000 bounty for the arrest of an alleged pair of ice cream thieves, caught on a cellphone camera pilfering Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s by the cartload.

As heists go, the execution is simple. One person distracts the store manager, Catsimatidis said in an interview with New York’s CBS 2, while accomplices load up bags or shopping carts with ice cream. They go for the good stuff — cartons of Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs are sold for about $6 per 14-ounce carton in New York. There is the occasional mad dash for the door, or the ice cream is pilfered in small batches over the course of an hour. The thieves will fence the ice cream at nearby bodegas or corner stores.

“They keep stealing it because it’s an easy item to sell,’’ Catsimatidis told the New York Post.

It would almost be amusing, with its shades of a minor plot point in “Zootopia” (the recent Disney movie features a vulpine con artist, voiced by Jason Bateman, who purchases elephant-sized popsicles to melt them down and resell them to lemmings on the sly). In real life, however, grocery stores are taking a hit. Health officials worry that bacteria will breed in the cartons as the ice cream melts en route to bodegas.

It is a citywide problem, at least in Catsimatidis’s estimation. “Our Upper East Side stores, Upper West Side stores, we lost it in Battery Park City, and it’s time these guys got captured,” he told CBS 2. CVS, Duane Reade and other supermarkets have also been targeted.

“It’s a good deal for the bodega and the seller,” one unnamed police official told the New York Post in May. One CVS store manager said he saw the brazen theft of nearly 150 ice cream cartons, worth about $935. The crime spree goes back to last fall and has persisted through February, when police caught seven people with a $1,683 dairy haul. According to the police source who spoke with the New York Post, the bodegas buy the ice cream for 10 cents on the dollar.

“If the bodega owner wants to collect $5,000, maybe he can work out a deal with Police Department,” Catsimatidis said in an interview with CBS 2. “But he’s a bad guy too for buying it.”