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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Cortez burglar takes some, leaves some

A weekend break-in at the Cortez Cafe left new owners Sam and Deborah Varelis $100 poorer, but it could have been worse, said Ms. Varelis.

"He left our lucky twenty," she said, "and he didn't trash the place, just broke the front window, came in, hit the cash register and went through the office in back, looking for hidden money, I guess. Then he left."

He left more than the framed $20 bill, traditional good-luck currency given a new business by a fellow-Greek. He left enough blood from breaking-glass cuts for DNA checks and for fingerprints, of which there were quite a few.

Ms. Varelis said the laundry operator next door to the cafe, 12108 Cortez Road, found his neighbor's window broken when he opened his business about 4 a.m. He called the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and deputies were there by 4:15.

MCSO reported no developments to by press time late Tuesday.

The intruder's haul included cash paid for a local artist's artwork which the Varelises had sold Saturday, plus some cash from the register.

They had renovated the restaurant only last October with the help of customers "who missed their morning coffee and wanted us to get opened up again quickly," said Ms. Varelis.

Same thing happened Sunday morning as word of the crime spread - people from around Cortez pitched in and helped get the broken glass swept up and the blood washed off and the window closed, she said. "Cortez is like that."