Jeff Jardine

Some thief could make a quick $1,000

To any victim whose stolen property never is recovered, "Crime doesn't pay" is just a slogan.

It's a gimmick as ineffective as a cartoon-character pooch grumbling, "Take a bite out of crime."

Too often, crime does pay. If it didn't, criminals would be looking for legitimate work.

Consider an ad that ran on Page A-11 of Saturday's Bee. It offers a $1,000 reward to the person who broke into a building in Ceres and stole foreign currency, four passports and three green cards last week.

"Bring all passports and green cards back and collect the reward," the ad reads. "No questions asked."

Sam Kodial, 55, whose stuff was stolen, isn't kidding. Yes, the police are investigating, and he'd love to see them catch the culprit.

In the meantime, he is a legal resident without his green card or passport. Same goes for his wife and daughter-in-law. He fears the documents could take months, if not a year or longer, to replace.

So he promises that if the person who took the documents simply brings them back, he'll hand over the cash without calling the police.

"I'm a man of my word," he said.

On Oct. 10, about 5 a.m., someone approached the Liquidation Outlet warehouse on Fairview Drive in Ceres, broke in through a skylight and made his way to the safe.

A dim video from a security camera showed someone -- a man, according to Kodial -- in a hooded sweat shirt approaching the building in the dark.

The shop is full of furnishings including bedroom sets, rugs, tables, chairs, lamps and whatnot. But this burglar wasn't looking for an ottoman. He obviously knew his way around the place and went directly to the safe. Kodial's safe -- which he'll soon replace with a thief-proof model -- has heavy iron doors secured by padlocks.

Or not. The thief used bolt cutters to open it and quickly emptied the safe's contents.

"He was in and out of here in three minutes," Kodial said.

The thief took items that are more valuable to Kodial than any of the goods he sells. Kodial kept his family's passports and green cards, along with some foreign currency, in the safe for apparently not-so-safekeeping.

Therein lies the reason he's so willing to forgive and forget.

It's not the stolen 2 million Iraqi dinars, which shake out to about $2,500 in U.S. dollars. Nor does he care about his 50,000 rupees from India, valued at about $1,000 in U.S. currency. Nor the 2,700 Norwegian krones that convert to about $500 U.S. Nor even a few hundred dollars worth of 50-cent pieces and Susan B. Anthony dollar coins he stored in a plastic mock five-liter Jack Daniels' Old No. 7 whiskey container.

The problem is replacing the passports and green cards, which he kept in a fanny pack in the safe.

Kodial's passport was issued by Norway, where he lived after leaving India as an 18-year-old in 1970. He came to the United States in 1988.

Passports belonging to his wife, Davinder, and daughter-in-law Sandeep, are from India. Only his son, American-born Raypaal Kodial, has a U.S. passport.

"You can't even go on a flight to Canada or Mexico without your passport," he said. "I was thinking of going to Canada for Christmas. Not now."

Kodial believes he'll be able to get his and his son's passports replaced with relative ease, though he suspects it could take several months.

"We don't have copies," he said.

Replacing passports for his wife and daughter-in-law will be a greater challenge. Indian authorities won't respond with any sort of efficiency, he said. With no relatives still living in India -- his wife's family now lives in Merced -- the Indian police will find no addresses in India to verify the information that was on the passports. So Davinder and Sandeep might try to obtain new passports issued by the U.S. government instead of fighting the Indian bureaucracy, he said.

They face the same issues with the green cards, which represent permanent resident status in the United States. Of the four Kodials, only Raypaal is a U.S. citizen. In fact, Sam Kodial might have to get the green cards replaced first in order to get the new passports.

Sam Kodial, Davinder and Sandeep are permanent residents but not citizens. They'll have to spend days at embassies and immigration offices in San Francisco ironing out their passport and immigration problems.

But such an inconvenience -- OK, a royal pain in the backside -- would go away if the thief returned just the passports and the green cards. That's why it's worth $1,000 to Kodial to pay the thief to return the stolen documents.

"To save the headache," he said.

No questions asked.

Yes, crime does -- or could -- pay. In Kodial's case, it's much easier than trying to take a bite out of it.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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