Nearly two dozen homes belonging to Asian business owners in Pennsylvania have fallen victim to a theft ring since the beginning of the year, according to local police.
The shocking detail came to light after the 22nd incident — the latest on record — took place at a residence in Moon Township sometime between 3 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 22, while the owners were out at work.
The victims, a senior Asian couple, have lived in the neighborhood for 23 years in peace. They own Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse at 4260 Steubenville Pike in Pittsburgh.
The couple’s elder daughter, Jenifier Nam, spoke to NextShark on Wednesday to reveal what went down in the aftermath of the break-in. She said her 66-year-old mother suffered a panic attack.
“I received a call from my dad at around 11:45 p.m. when the police were already at the house. At the time I could hear my mom speaking to them,” Jenifier recalled. “A detective arrived, as well as forensics. We then got off the phone because he needed to continue the interview with the detective.”
“I called him an hour later to check up, and he said mom was not doing so good. I figured, of course, she just got robbed, but it was bad,” Jenifier said. “She had a panic attack and even asked my dad at one point why the police were there. The shock was too much and the ambulance was called. She was taken to the hospital, and she did not remember being there. I kept checking in on them until they got home at around 4:45 a.m. the next day.”
Three days later, Jenifier met with a detective sergeant who informed her that 21 other business owners have had their homes robbed.
“I was appalled for two reasons. One, because Pittsburgh does not have a big Asian community, and two, because we did NOT hear a single thing about this,” Jenifier told NextShark.
Moon Township Police Chief Greg Seamon confirmed with WPXI that there are now 22 homes that have been targeted. Eleven other cases are under investigation in Mt. Lebanon, Hopewell Township and Ross Township.
“My detectives are looking most likely at an organized group that is going around targeting Asian business owners,” Seamon said.
Jenifier said she and her siblings flew to Pittsburgh the day after the incident. She described seeing her parents’ pain — including how her 62-year-old father thought of giving up their restaurant of about 30 years.
“My mom was not well. She didn’t eat for a couple days and there were lots of tears,” Jenifier said. “My dad was saving face. He was staying strong, saying he is thankful that my mom is OK, because that scared him.”
“However, he had moments of sadness and that is honestly the first time I saw my dad crying,” she added. “They tried pushing through but had to close the restaurant for a few days at first. It has now taken a turn that my dad is not doing well. He has not been able to sleep, blames himself and wants to give up the restaurant because he is tired.”
Jenifier said her parents now “live in fear” and constantly ask “Why us?” She and her siblings decided to take turns traveling to Pittsburgh from Atlanta to ensure their parents have company.
“It’s been really tough for all of us. What makes matters worse is home insurance won’t cover everything and police have no leads,” she added.
Jenifier said she most recently spoke with a detective on Monday, but aside from delivering no good news, the officer was allegedly insensitive to her family’s plight.
“It was not a pleasant conversation,” Jenifier said. “At one point, he asked ‘What’s the rush? Everything taken is gone.’”
“I get that they have protocols and want things done correctly, but I did not need to hear that,” Jenifier added. “I told him that was insensitive, but of course he said he was just being practical. A little sensitivity would be nice especially since I’m still hopeful we could get something back. Maybe I’m too naive or it’s just I feel so helpless, wishful thinking is all I have. My parents need closure or at least something positive.”
The siblings created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help recover their parents’ losses. As of this writing, the campaign has raised $12,390.
“My siblings and I debated for a while about starting this, as our parents have always been so humble,” Stephanie Nam wrote. “However, the losses have been detrimental, and we want to help them cover some of their losses.”
Jenifier told NextShark she decided to share her family’s story to warn other Asian business owners of the crimes.
“We did not hear about the other 21 robberies in the news, which would have definitely made my parents more cautious. I know we could have prevented this,” Jenifier said. “I don’t want other families to have to go through what we are going through, and maybe, just maybe, someone saw something and will call it in.”
Featured Image via GoFundMe (left) and Jenifier Nam for NextShark (right)