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While his cafe is being burgled, owner takes off in suspect's truck

LUTZ — In the Dominican Republic, they say that every cat in the night is black.

This is what Agustin De Jesus, 47, thought when he heard a prowler rummaging around his restaurant, Rosa's Cafe, at 4 a.m.

De Jesus moved from the Dominican Republic to Tampa about three years ago. He bought Rosa's Cafe in Lutz, where the ropa vieja and picadillo are delicious and the hours are long — De Jesus typically works 17-hour days. He set up a cot in a back room so he can sleep at the restaurant when he's too tired for the half-hour drive to his North Tampa home.

Tuesday morning, Pasco deputies said the black cat in De Jesus' restaurant was Leonard Levy, a Land O'Lakes custodian whose rap sheet includes about 20 arrests that run the gamut from a robbery when he was 17 to larceny and cocaine possession.

De Jesus said he saw Levy rummaging in his cash drawer. He also saw a Ford Ranger pickup truck waiting behind his restaurant. The keys were in the ignition. The engine was running.

The Pasco County Sheriffs's Office received the first call from Levy, who reported his vehicle stolen. Then they got a call from De Jesus, who had driven the Ranger to his home and called the Sheriff's Office to report the burglary at his restaurant.

The truck, he felt, was his only option. There are a few businesses in the same strip mall as his cafe. But he was leery of trying to find help at that hour.

"What kind of neighbor can you find at 4 in the morning?" De Jesus said Tuesday during the lunch rush at Rosa's.

In the Dominican Republic, he ran a market. This was the business owner's first brush with a burglar. Despite his ordeal, De Jesus kept it all in perspective.

"I'm okay," he said. "I'm alive."

Levy had popped off the cafe's doorknob and pried the rear door open, according to deputies' reports. De Jesus said the burglar made off with more than $2,000 in cash.

De Jesus came back to the scene to identify the burglar.

"That's when Levy said, 'Well, that's the guy who stole my truck,' " sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.

De Jesus was not arrested. "He's the victim," Tobin said.

Levy also was arrested and charged with several other burglaries in the area. Deputies said Levy broke into at least eight businesses in April, including Kim Bo Chinese Restaurant in Land O'Lakes and Little Feet Shoes in Wesley Chapel. Deputies did not say how much money he got away with.

In an interview with deputies, Levy, 55, said he had served 13 years in state prison and another arrest would put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Levy is at the Land O'Lakes Jail in lieu of $75,500 bail. He was charged with multiple counts of burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (352) 521-6518.

While his cafe is being burgled, owner takes off in suspect's truck 04/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 6:24pm]
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