The $20,000 reward announced Thursday by a task force investigating Asian restaurant robberies in the Lowcountry came as welcome news.
"Someone will see them (the robbers) spending a lot of money," said Walter Wong, owner of four Chinese restaurants in the tri-county area. "They may wonder how they're coming into the money and smell something wrong."
The reward was announced along with the announcement of the existence of a Joint Enforcement Team that is looking into a string of at least 25 armed robberies of Asian restaurants in the Lowcountry since April.
The lead agency for the team is the State Law Enforcement Division, and the FBI is putting up the reward money, SLED public information officer Jennifer Timmons said.
A toll-free number has been set up to accept tips. The reward will be given for information that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of those responsible for the robberies.
Other agencies in the team are the sheriff's offices in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester and Orangeburg counties; and the police departments in Charleston, Folly Beach, Goose Creek, Holly Hill,
Summerville and Walterboro.
At least 16 Chinese restaurants in the tri-county area have been robbed since Aug. 1, three of them twice. Restaurants outside the tri-county area have been robbed also, including one in Holly Hill on Sept. 30 and one in Andrews on Nov. 16.
SLED is not making a distinction between Chinese restaurants and other Asian restaurants, and it is counting some robberies that took place in April, Timmons said.
The armed suspects typically enter the restaurants wearing items such as gloves, masks, hoodies and dark clothing to conceal their identities.
Timmons said anyone who knows something about the robberies and is withholding that information, or anyone who is aiding the suspects in any way, may face criminal prosecution.
Reach David W. MacDougall at 937-5655.