Karen Rasmussen and her husband, Manny Pena, own Taco Trio, which was broken into early on Christmas morning. Police are now investigating possible connections to break-ins at three other local food-related businesses. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Police are investigating several recent break-ins at food businesses in Portland and South Portland that could be connected.

In South Portland, Buena Vista Filipino Market on Main Street and Taco Trio on Ocean Street were burglarized in the last week. The two businesses are about 3 miles apart. And police in Portland are investigating burglaries at Coffee By Design on India Street and LFK, a cocktail bar on State Street, both reported last weekend.

Detectives from both cities are comparing security video and other evidence to look for connections, South Portland Lt. Detective Chris Todd said.

While there is so far no direct evidence linking the Taco Trio and Buena Vista burglaries, Todd said investigators “do have reason to believe” there is a connection between the burglaries in South Portland and the one at LFK. He said they also will look for connections to the break-in at Coffee By Design.

“This is an active investigation,” South Portland police said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “The South Portland Police Department is working with Portland Police to investigate potential links between crimes at food establishments in Portland. South Portland police will share additional information as it becomes available.”

The first break-in happened at Taco Trio around 12:45 a.m. on Christmas. The burglars returned twice – once at 5:30 a.m. and again at 6:45 a.m., according to the post. A surveillance video shared by the restaurant appears to show two people taking cash registers from the restaurant.


Karen Rasmussen, who owns the restaurant with her husband, said the break-in was discovered on Tuesday as employees arrived to reopen after the holiday. There wasn’t much out of place, she said, but it soon became clear that someone had been in the restaurant and stolen some cash. As they reviewed security footage, they realized the suspects had come back multiple times.

They left with cash drawers that were stored in the back of the restaurant, as well as the empty drawers at the front counter. They also took a small safe that was not bolted to the floor, Rasmussen said. They took about $3,000 in cash, but left behind computers and other valuable items.

“They really only wanted cash,” she said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Rasmussen said the suspects got into the restaurant by wiggling the door handle until both the handle and punch code mechanism gave way. The restaurant reopened for dinner on Tuesday as scheduled and repairs were made to the door that night after closing.

“The worst part is the feeling that your space has been violated,” she said. “But the biggest hassle is that your space is not secured and you have to scramble to get it secured.”

The burglary at Coffee By Design in Portland happened sometime after midnight on Saturday. Owner Mary Allen Lindemann said someone threw a brick and shattered a side door. The break-in was discovered by a newspaper carrier who reported the damage to police around 4 a.m.


The person stole the cash drawer, which didn’t have much in it because her staff had removed most cash at the end of the day Friday, Lindemann said.

On Sunday morning, a delivery person found an open door at LFK. A cash drawer was taken, as were the contents of a safe that was broken into, Portland police said. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken.

The latest break-in happened at Buena Vista at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday. One person broke into the store, taking the cash register, lottery scratch tickets and some merchandise.

Mae Tallarico, who opened the market in July 2022, said an officer on patrol noticed an open window at the store around 1:30 a.m. and discovered the business had been broken into. But police were unable to contact her before she arrived at the store Tuesday morning and found items scattered across the floor. She immediately called police.

“I had a really bad feeling. My heart was racing,” she said. “I did not expect that would happen in South Portland. It’s terrible.”

Tallarico said there was $800 in the stolen cash register.


Security photos shared by the market show a bearded man wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt walking through the store and near a cash register. Todd, the South Portland detective, said the videos from the businesses are decent quality and he believes they will help police identify suspects. The department shared video from Buena Vista market on Facebook on Wednesday to help generate leads.

After Tallarico posted them on Facebook on Tuesday night, she got a call from a woman who said she knows the man. Tallarico said she immediately called police to pass along the information.

Portland police also are investigating a burglary at Blue Lobster Urban Winery on Anderson Street on Dec. 17. A cash box was taken during that break-in. Brad Nadeau, a police spokesman, said investigators “are always looking for connections between crimes of this nature.”

In an email Wednesday evening, Nadeau said that the department was not going to comment further on the ongoing investigation.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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