06/07/2013 03:28 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2013

Bartender Loses $178,000 In Tips When Safe Is Stolen (VIDEO)

A hard-working bartender from San Pedro, Calif. is heartbroken over the theft of a home safe that contained $178,000 -- tip money he had collected over 24 years.

The victim, whose identity remains hidden for his family's safety, had just returned from dropping his son off at high school Wednesday morning when he noticed someone had forced his rear window open, reports the Daily Breeze. Upon entering the home, he saw that his dresser and closet was open, and his safe was gone.

The safe contained bundles of $100 and $2 bills that he was saving for his teen son's university tuition. He also planned to help his two adult sons purchase their own homes. The victim kept impeccable records of the tip money in a ledger, which is why he was able to know the exact amount of money that was stolen.

"For 24 years, I don't know what is a vacation," he said to the Daily Breeze. "I don't know what is my birthday. I don't know what is a holiday." The victim, a Mexico native who came to California in 1989, said that his ethnic background played a role in deciding to store his tip money at home and his paychecks in a bank account.

"I am Hispanic," he said. "We don't like to put all the money in the bank." Still, he acknowledged that it was a mistake to store his money at home. After the crime occurred, he had trouble sleeping and telling his wife the bad news.

Check out the Daily Breeze to learn what neighbors observed when they saw the suspect in the neighborhood.

Detective Don Eldridge of the Los Angeles Police Department released images of the suspect and getaway car earlier this week. The suspect is wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the photo and got into a yellow car. Eldridge described it as either a Chevrolet Cavalier Sport or a Pontiac Sunfire.

When The Huffington Post spoke to him Friday morning, Det. Eldridge had just obtained closed circuit security footage from the victim's neighbor. But he wasn't optimistic about the leads he could generate from the video and instead called on the community to help.

"The video, in my opinion, is not good enough to form a solid identification unless someone knows that person," he said to The Huffington Post. "At this point, all possibilities are open." Tipsters can reach him at (310) 726-7853.

"I talked to [the victim] this morning," Eldridge added. "He's doing ok. But he's heartbroken."

Since the Daily Breeze published their story on Thursday, Det. Eldridge hasn't received any tips. He's hoping wider coverage of the crime will spark someone's memory.

While Eldridge doesn't recommend storing money at home, he did have some advice for those who want to continue doing it.

"You've got to have it in a safe that you can encase in concrete, like in the floor of your garage" said Eldridge. "You can't have it in a safe that can be carried off."



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