FAIRBANKS — Video surveillance and a cooperative witness led Alaska State Troopers to two suspects accused of breaking a safe out of Pike’s Landing restaurant late Sunday.
A restaurant employee reported the burglary and provided troopers with a video of two men pushing a safe containing about $9,000 out of the restaurant, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday at the Rabinowitz Courthouse. The men covered their faces, but their vehicle, a newer, quad-cab Dodge with air scoops on the hood, a plastic bed liner and a spare tire with a rim, gave troopers something to look for. The truck left immediately after the two men loaded the safe and got in the vehicle, indicating there might have been a third suspect driving the truck, troopers said.
A trooper spotted the suspect truck Tuesday afternoon on the Richardson Highway near Airport Way. The driver, who has not been charged, told troopers he was not involved in the break-in and agreed to watch a copy of the surveillance tape. He identified one of the men as Brandon J. Hill, 19, of North Pole. The other man, who he identified only as “Johnny,” troopers later concluded was Jonathan A. Raster, 20, of Fairbanks.
The driver led troopers to gravel pits at the end of Andromeda Drive off Nordale Road in the North Pole area. In an area where the man said they broke up the safe, there were several pieces of fireproofing material, a metal shelf and several small envelopes with keys next to them, troopers said. The man then led troopers to a water-filled gravel pit where the safe was visible about 10 feet from the shoreline, several feet below the surface of the water. The man told troopers “Johnny” had handed him about $1,200. The man said he burned the money because he felt guilty.
Troopers arrested Hill at his home. A search of the home revealed $2,300 in cash and clothing that matched clothing from the surveillance tape, troopers said. Hill told troopers he wanted to talk to an attorney.
A juvenile probation officer told troopers “Johnny” sounded like Raster based on his description. Raster got out of prison in Anchorage and returned to Fairbanks on Sept. 7. He was serving a sentence for witness tampering from a 2010 Fairbanks case that originally was charged as armed robbery. He pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and misdemeanor assault in that case, according to the Alaska Court System Courtview website. Raster also used to work as a dishwasher at Pike’s, troopers said.
Troopers arrested Raster on Wednesday. He said he was not involved in a burglary at Pike’s, and a search of his home did not uncover any evidence, troopers said.
Both suspects are in custody at Fairbanks Correctional Center. Hill was arraigned Wednesday, and Raster was arraigned Friday. Both men are scheduled to appear in court again later this month.
The thieves did an estimated $500 to the restaurant, troopers said.
“They destroyed two exterior doors, one interior door, a few of our video cameras and compromised everyone’s safety” business co-owner Jay Ramras said. “But the troopers did an exceptional job and very speedy.”
Ramras said it was not clear how much of the money was recovered but said he was under the impression some of the cash seized in a search was tied to the business because there were many two-dollar bills, a denomination favored by the business.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.