Custard crime leaves bitter taste

Manny Aslami and Li Martin from Pakenham Donutopia. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS 183794_05

By Rowan Forster

The owner of Pakenham’s Donutopia cafe has spoken out against the region’s frightening spate of crime after his store was robbed by balaclava-clad thugs on Sunday night.

Young cashiers were left “shaken” and “panicked” after they were intimidated by a teenage gang – reportedly armed with a crowbar.

Six males, described as being of African appearance, also reportedly targeted the neighbouring Dominos’ restaurant, on the Princes Highway.

According to Manny Aslami, who runs the store, one of his teenage employees was too terrified to return to work the following day.

“One of the poor girls was on her second shift, and she told me she couldn’t come in next day – she was just so frightened,” he said.

“It’s a growing concern from community members and the sad part is it’s just a minority who are doing this sort of thing.

“We had to close early and that costs us money and it upsets customers who come out this way.”

In a brazen and bizarre act, the offenders reportedly tried to order as many as 50 donuts, four milkshakes and a dozen pies in a purchase totalling more than $200.

When it came time to pay, the group produced an assortment of allegedly stolen credit cards.

“They had multiple cards, some with women’s names and some with very European sounding names – so they were obviously stolen,” Mr Aslami said.

“All of the cards were declining, because they must have been cancelled.

“They said they’d come back and they went outside to speak to their other mates, retuning with even more cards.”

When staff raised suspicions with the purchase continually being declined, the offenders became more hostile.

“They started intimidating the girls, which was really scary,” Mr Aslami added.

The offenders reportedly swiped the Eftpos machine from the counter, seizing handfuls of stock, before fleeing the store and across the highway, triggering alarms at Pakenham Consolidated School.

It comes just 48 hours after a gang of six thugs held a 29-year-old man at gunpoint during a terrifying carjacking near Pakenham’s central shopping district.

Li Martin – who was supervising the store on the Sunday night – suspects the thugs may have struck when they saw two young girls behind the counter.

“It seems they were trying their luck with the junior staff members on,” she said.

“From the second they walked in it was clear they were up to no good.

“They were hooded up, wearing balaclavas and gloves and one had a rod or a crowbar sticking out the back of his pants.”

Ms Martin said it was particularly saddening, given the store’s aim to nurture a family-friendly environment.

“It’s tarnishing for a nice family store, which is a safe zone for all children,” she said.

“People see this and they become scared.”

After the offenders attempted a similar feat inside Dominos, staff reviewed CCTV footage.

They discovered the offenders were attempting to manually enter numbers into the Eftpos machine to trigger a fraudulent refund.

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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