Greg Giles opened his Grease Monkey auto lubrication franchise in Durango just more than a month ago.
But on Saturday, Giles said he could never have suspected that it would involve him in a ransom scheme.
The company's huge inflatable monkey was stolen from Giles' business Friday night or Saturday morning.
"I'm a new member of the community here, and I love it, but I can honestly say I never expected anything like this," Giles said.
The case exceeded routine mischief when Giles found a ransom note in a cutout-letter style where his 20-foot monkey, Seymore, used to sit on the roof at his business on River Road, south of Home Depot. The note instructed Giles to deliver $1,500 to the Durango Harley-Davidson dealership at 750 South Camino del Rio, and implied the police would be of no help. The note is now evidence and the exact wording is being withheld while the investigation continues.
"The strangest part of it all is the time it must've taken to plan this," Giles said.
He said officers from the Durango Police Department surmised that the thieves used a ladder to access the roof, had to fold the huge monkey and its accompanying compressor/inflator into a manageable size and load it into a truck. That doesn't even address the time it took to create the ransom note, which was comprised of letters cut from newspapers and magazines.
Durango Police Officer Travis Carpenter responded to the larceny call, and quickly eliminated the Harley-Davidson business and its employees as suspects.
"I checked it out because we have to look at everything, but they were very cooperative. It was obvious they knew nothing about it," Carpenter said. "They were eager to assist, and needless to say, they were as amused as the rest of us."
Giles said he doesn't know anyone at the dealership and believes those employed there are blameless in the caper. He said he had no idea why the ransom note would mention the dealership by name.
Giles doesn't expect the theft of Seymore to rank high on the priority list, but he wanted the authorities to realize the case is more serious than it seems on the surface. The inflatable monkey is owned by Grease Monkey's corporate headquarters and is valued at more than $5,000. That makes the crime a Class 4 felony, which could result in a two- to six-year prison term and thousands of dollars in fines, Carpenter said.
"It is a felony case, and as humorous as some of the aspects may be, we still have the duty to pursue it fully. Someone took his property, and someone needs to be held responsible for it," Carpenter said.
Giles agreed, knowing full well that the monkey-napping will be a highly discussed matter at coffee shops and bars around town.
"I think it's entertaining news, too, and let's get a good laugh out of it, but then let's get serious and just bring Seymore back - please," he said.