The House Small Business Committee’s chief economist was charged by Capitol Police with the attempted theft of a plasma television Thursday night.
According to a Capitol Police memorandum, officers apprehended the suspect, Thomas Loo, in the Rayburn House Office Building at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday after a Financial Services Committee staff member discovered Loo removing a plasma television from a room on the building’s second floor.
Daniel McGlinchey, a professional staff member of the Financial Services panel, said he entered the committee’s overflow hearing room, Room 2220, shortly before 10 p.m. to retrieve items from his office, located in a connected room.
“There was this guy standing there, and on a dolly there was something large wrapped in cardboard,” McGlinchey said in a telephone interview. “He seemed a little surprised to see me.”
McGlinchey said he at first assumed the man, who was dressed “casually,” was removing items from an earlier reception or other event in the hearing room. But when McGlinchey proceeded to enter his office, he looked back and noticed that the man, who had begun to remove the dolly from the room, seemed “agitated.”
“Then I noticed the plasma TV on the wall is not there,” said McGlinchey, who proceeded to follow the suspect.
“I went out to the hallway and said, ‘Is that our TV?,” McGlinchey recalled. “What are you doing with our TV?”
According to McGlinchey, Loo’s response was unintelligible and he continued to wheel the dolly toward a nearby elevator. “He was walking down the hall really fast, and I said, ‘You’re not leaving with that TV until we talk to the police,” he added.
The Capitol Police memo states that Loo then abandoned the television and began to flee down a staircase to the building’s first floor, followed by McGlinchey.
“A foot chase ensued until they reached the 1st Floor, where the parties encountered the Capitol Police and FBI agents working in the area,” the memo states.
McGlinchey said the group of about a dozen police officers, apparently in the building on a training exercise, proceeded to chase the suspect.
“The cops wrestled him to the ground, and even then he wasn’t talking, he just seemed really disorientated and pretty upset about being caught,” McGlinchey said.
Loo did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday afternoon, and a woman who answered the telephone number at Loo’s Bethesda, Md., home said she did not know his whereabouts.
A veteran GOP staffer, Loo joined the Small Business Committee in April 2004. He earlier spent nine years as a senior economist for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and also served on the House Budget Committee. Loo, who previously worked as a tax consultant at Price Waterhouse, began his Congressional career in 1992 at the Congressional Budget Office.
A graduate of the City College of New York, Loo also holds a doctorate and a master’s degree from Duke University.
According to a Capitol Police spokesman, Loo could face a prison sentence or possible fine if he is convicted in the attempted theft, depending on whether he has previous offenses or convictions.
“It would most likely go to court and then be decided,” said Officer Michael Lauer.
During the telephone interview, McGlinchey suggested the attempted heist may have been preplanned.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, McGlinchey’s officemate met Loo when the Small Business Committee staffer walked into the Rayburn subcommittee room. McGlinchey said Loo asserted he was looking for the majority staff and then walked out of the office.
“It wasn’t a fluke,” McGlinchey said.
A spokeswoman for the Financial Services Committee declined to comment on the incident, and referred all questions to the Capitol Police.
But Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the panel’s ranking member, praised his staffers’ actions as courageous — noting he had good-naturedly referred to him as “sheriff” in a telephone call after reading the Capitol Police report.
“It’s disappointing that an employee would be doing this,” Frank said of the attempted theft. “That’s the saddest thing: that a high-ranking committee employee would do this.”
The Massachusetts lawmaker added: “You’d like to think that people around here could trust each other.”
McGlinchey, who once helped to nab a purse-thief in Boston’s South End, took the incident in stride: “I feel a bit like a cross between McGruff the crime fighting dog and Mr. Mcgoo, I’m just in the right place at the wrong time.”