Chilmark police make an arrest in farmstand thefts

A newly installed security camera recorded a woman pocketing money and led to her arrest in connection with several thefts from cash boxes.

At the Grey Barn farmstand, meat, cheese and produce are sold on the honor system. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated at 12:15 pm, Wednesday, October 29.

Chilmark police Sunday arrested Sasha Wlodyka, 37, of State Road, Chilmark, in connection with a series of thefts of cash from money boxes and produce from the Grey Barn and Farm off South Road, and Mermaid Farm and Beetlebung Farm on Middle Road in Chilmark.

Ms. Wlodyka was booked at the Dukes County Jail Sunday night and released Monday on $1,000 bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Edgartown District Court on Friday, October 31.

Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said he could confirm the arrest but would not comment on the details while the investigation remains active and arraignment is pending. Police arrested Ms. Wlodyka on three counts of larceny over $250 on a single scheme and one count of forgery and uttering in connection with alterations she made to ledger sheets.

“Our department worked hard on this case which reflects on the quality of life in our community,” Chief Cioffi said. “At the end of the process, our goal, as always, is to see that the victim is provided with appropriate restitution.”

Eric Glasgow and his wife, Molly, own Grey Barn, a small-scale certified organic farm located just past the West Tisbury town line where they raise cows, pigs, and chickens and produce a variety of products, including two types of cheese, meat, pork, eggs, and raw milk, all of which are sold at their farmstand.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Glasgow said the farmstand operates on an honor system. Visitors are asked to record what they take on a ledger sheet and leave payment in a cash box. He became aware that someone was stealing from the farmstand in August when product inventories, ledger entries, and cash did not add up. While some discrepancies are to be expected due to honest math mistakes, he said, “if it indicates that there should be $400 and there is only $200, that’s a problem.”

As the thefts continued intermittently, Mr. Glasgow said, he became very annoyed and decided to do something about it. He ordered a security camera but got busy and delayed installing it. “And then of course, it happens again, and at that point I’m super angry at myself because I hadn’t even managed to install the camera,” he said.

Saturday he and his son spent the better part of the morning installing the camera. That evening when he went out to collect the money he saw that a ledger sheet on which he had transcribed some customer comments was missing and the money appeared to be off.

“I went and viewed the footage, saw the perpetrator and called the police,” Mr. Glasgow said. “They were able to take the information they got off that and figure out who it was and make an arrest.”

Mr. Glasgow said the recording shows that Ms. Wlodyka’s young daughter was present in the farmstand Saturday as she took bills out of the cash box, he said.

“It is a rather disheartening thing to see the crime taking place in front of a young child,” Mr. Glasgow said.

Mr. Glasgow said it is difficult to calculate exactly how much was stolen because Ms. Wlodyka, a frequent farm stand customer, removed the original ledger sheet and replaced it with a doctored sheet.

Mr. Glasgow said he appreciated the response of the Chilmark police. “The surveillance video was pretty conclusive, but they obviously made pretty quick work out of figuring out who it was since I didn’t immediately recognize the person.”

Mr. Glasgow said the entire episode is regrettable and reveals that the Vineyard is not immune from the type of petty crime that is more often associated with the mainland. “We like to believe that we can have an honor box and people are not going to steal,” he said. “Unfortunately it did not play out.”

Chief Cioffi said at this point he has no credible evidence that the Sunday night arrest of Ms. Wlodyka is related to a string of nighttime thefts in Chilmark and West Tisbury during the first week of September, in which entire cash boxes were stolen from Mermaid Farm on Middle Road, North Tabor Farm on North Road, and the flower stand on the Menemsha Cross Road.

That same week, West Tisbury police were called to investigate break-ins at Leona’s Pet Supply and Fiddlehead Farm. In all cases, the robberies occurred sometime between the close of business on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, according to police. Cash registers at both businesses were stolen and scales were also taken from Fiddlehead Farm.