Ridge man charged in pharmacy burglary

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published February 20, 2013

BERKLEY — Police chased down a man who allegedly broke into a Berkley pharmacy and then fled on foot with a duffel bag full of stolen prescription drugs.

According to the police report, at about 2:25 a.m. Feb. 9, Berkley public safety officers were dispatched to the Premier Care Pharmacy, 28139 Woodward Ave., after the silent burglar alarm activated. The pharmacy owner, Sonny Soued, was notified of the alarm and was able to watch the surveillance camera footage from home on his cellphone. He observed someone inside the store taking items off the shelves.

The officers arrived at the scene to find a man emerge from the entrance of the building dressed in all black clothing, wearing a head-mounted flashlight and carrying a large duffel bag on his shoulder. They shined a spotlight on him and ordered him to stop, but he turned and attempted to run away.

“He ran southbound behind the businesses on Woodward, then across Catalpa,” said Deputy Public Safety Director Bob North. “Then he ran eastbound across Woodward over to the Royal Oak side.”

Berkley officers chased the suspect on foot and were assisted by police from Royal Oak, Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods in their pursuit. A Berkley officer soon took the man down to the ground, but he suffered an injury to his knee in the process. Meanwhile, the suspect — later identified as William Tsermengas Jr., 44, of Pleasant Ridge — landed on the ground face-first and sustained a laceration on his cheek.

While searching the suspect, North said, “We recovered a large quantity of prescription drugs and some tools typically used to commit burglaries.” According to the police report, Tsermengas’ duffel bag was filled with 87 containers of prescription drugs. He was also in possession of a large hammer, two flashlights and a pair of pliers.

The officers checked the pharmacy and found a small pane of glass broken out on the west side of the building. Inside, many of the shelves and bins were in disarray, and there were numerous medications scattered across the floor. A locked door within the building had also been kicked open.

The surveillance video confirmed that the suspect had acted alone in the crime. However, there were no fingerprints found inside the pharmacy because the alleged suspect was wearing gloves throughout the break-in. The officers later recovered the suspect’s vehicle, a green 2001 GMC Sierra, parked on a nearby residential street.

Tsermengas was arraigned in Berkley 45-A District Court Feb. 11 for breaking and entering, a 10-year felony. Judge Jamie Wittenberg set bond at $35,000 cash and scheduled a pre-exam conference for Feb. 19 at 9 a.m., which occurred after press time. Tsermengas was still confined in Oakland County Jail at press time and had not yet obtained an attorney.

According to the Michigan Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS), Tsermengas is currently on probation for failure to pay child support and has prior convictions for resisting and obstructing police and possession of a controlled substance, as well as additional counts of failure to pay child support.

Soued estimated that the prescription drugs stolen from his pharmacy had a total value of $5,000 to $10,000. His insurance will cover the cost of any damages, but even though the medications were returned, he could not simply return them to the pharmacy shelves.

“By law, all the drugs must be destroyed afterwards,” he explained. “Once they leave the pharmacy, I have no control over where they’ve been or what’s happened to them.”

Soued repeatedly thanked Berkley public safety for their quick response to the burglary.

“I can’t stress enough how awesome the police response was — they got here in no time at all, only two or three minutes,” he said. “I’ve heard horror stories about other pharmacies waiting forever for the police to get there after a break-in. I guess I picked the right city to open a business in.”