Good Samaritans Help Cops Catch UES Cafe Tip Jar Theft Suspect

Good Samaritans help cops catch Ella's Cafe tip jar theft suspect/Upper East Site
Good Samaritans help cops catch Ella's Cafe tip jar theft suspect/Upper East Site

MANHATTAN – Good Samaritans helped police track down the suspect in a brazen crime Friday morning on the Upper East Side, following the man they saw swipe the plastic tip jar full of cash right off the counter of Ella’s Cafe in Lenox Hill, until NYPD officers could swoop in and make an arrest.

“He walked right in the store up to the counter, grabbed the jar, and just turned around and walked out,” said Betsy Kelly, a regular customer who witnessed the theft unfold just after 9:30 am and started recording on her cell phone.

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“It was very cavalier. He wasn’t running or anything,” she noted.

“The poor guy who worked [at Ella’s Cafe] was just pleading with him in the street to give it back, and he was just swinging around.”

Ella's Cafe worker follows suspect in red hat, asks him to return tip jar/Upper East Site
Ella’s Cafe worker follows suspect in red hat, asks him to return tip jar/Upper East Site

The thief didn’t end up giving the tip jar or the money back, workers at Ella’s Cafe and witnesses told Upper East Site on Friday, however, two regular customers by the names of Ari and Dominic didn’t give up on getting it back. 

Ella's Cafe is located on Second Avenue near East 76th Street/Upper East Site
Ella’s Cafe is located on Second Avenue near East 76th Street/Upper East Site

Speaking with Upper East Site outside of Ella’s Cafe— located on Second Avenue near East 76th Street—  Ari explained how he was on the phone with police as he and his friend tailed the thief all the way to East 78th Street to Park Avenue, where NYPD officers caught up with them and put suspect in cuffs.

Ella's Cafe worker follows suspect in red hat, asks him to return tip jar/Upper East Site
Ella’s Cafe worker follows suspect in red hat, asks him to return tip jar/Upper East Site

“He was just walking and we just kept following him,” said Ari, a regular customer at Ella’s.

“I was on the phone 911… and we just kept following him and telling the police where he was,” he added.

Investigators identified the suspect to Upper East Site as 65-year-old King Willie from Queens— he’s now charged with petit larceny.

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After collaring the alleged crook, police returned the tip jar to Ella’s Cafe, where it was back in its spot on the counter Friday afternoon, where it belonged— to the relief of workers and customers.

Ella's Cafe tip jar stolen by thief and returned by police/Upper East Site
Ella’s Cafe tip jar stolen by thief and returned by police/Upper East Site

“The restaurant industry has been through so much over the last few years,” said Betsy.

“And to see just such a brazen criminal act, at a small, local place was almost unbelievable.” 

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Video by Betsy Kelly | Contact [email protected] | Subscribe

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