Life savings stolen from local family-owned restaurant - WSMV Channel 4

Life savings stolen from local family-owned restaurant

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LAFAYETTE, GA (WRCB) -

Police in North Georgia are investigating what they consider a major theft at a family-owned restaurant. They say thieves got away with the family's life savings of approximately $30,000.

It happened Tuesday at the No.1 Chinese Restaurant on Highway 27 in Lafayette near the Wal-Mart shopping center. The family says they're devastated to find all of their hard earned money walked right out the door in a thief's pocket.

"My whole family is crushed. It's hard to believe that happened to us. To work so hard and it just happened and we don't know what to do," Tong Lin said.

Tong Lin's family moved here from China when he was eleven to seek a better life. They opened No. 1 Chinese Restaurant in Lafayette in 2004. Now Tong is in college.

"My parents want me to go to school, finish up my degree and then find a good job," Tong said.

Tong, his parents and sister are the only employees. They've been saving all they can to buy a home, in addition to borrowing some money from a loved one.

"In my personal opinion, that's the hardest workers I've ever seen in my life, my family," he said.

They were up to about $30,000 in savings. They kept it in a hiding spot at the restaurant. Then Tuesday, they realized it had disappeared.

"Very seldom do we have people lose this kind of cash," Lafayette Police Chief Bengie Clift said.

But investigators say it is common in many other cultures for people to avoid putting their money in banks.

"I do feel sorry for them. I know it's going to be easy for people to say if they had their money in a bank this wouldn't have happened, but it's not an issue of incompetence, or them not being able to keep up with their money, it's just this is how they store their money," Chief Clift said.

Police say they've identified two suspects. They're workers the Lins previously hired to do repairs. They came back Tuesday, saying they needed to get a tool they'd left behind in the same area where the money was hidden. After they left, the Lins realized their life savings was gone.

"Absolutely means nothing now. It's gone. We got to start all over again," Tong said.

Their regular customers are outraged.

"Just getting to be a mean world out there and I think it's sad for hard working people to be done that way," customer Billie Baker said.

Lafayette Police say they're currently interviewing the two suspects. If they get enough evidence to arrest them, they face felony theft charges. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee the Lins will get their money back.

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