The Malheur County Sheriff's Office is investigating a series of thefts from The Mirage in Adrian. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon).

ADRIAN – Kathy Lea was asleep when the call came in Monday morning.

As soon as she heard her cook’s voice on the answering machine, she knew her business, The Mirage in Adrian, had been hit again by burglars.

“There isn’t anything I can do. I am helpless and getting to be hopeless as far as my security is concerned,” said Lea.

The Mirage has been burglarized three times since Nov. 30 with thieves disappearing with nearly $20,000 in cash, said Lea.

The Mirage was burglarized on Nov. 30 and again on Dec. 4.

Lea said the break-ins are an attack not just on her restaurant but the town.

“This community depends on this place. If I had not been financially sound, it could have closed it. I take it personally,” said Lea.

On and off for more than 30 years people from across the Treasure Valley have stopped by The Mirage to drink a beer, grab some lunch or enjoy a first-rate prime rib dinner.

“We have a full menu, everything and anything possible you’d want from seafood to steaks,” said Lea.

The popular restaurant – the only one in Adrian – is also the biggest employer, at 13 people.

Lea said she decided to open a restaurant in Adrian because of the town’s down-home feel. The Mirage offered a sanctuary from big city lights where a good meal was easy to find.

Now, Lea said, she is frustrated and insecure.

“I am running out of options about what do to do to protect myself. I don’t know how many more robberies I can take,” said Lea.

Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff, said he doesn’t know how much money was taken from The Mirage Monday morning.

“Forced entry was made into the building. They had the money secured. We’ve assigned a detective to it and there is a lot of ground work that still needs to be done,” said Wolfe.

After the first two burglaries, Lea said she upgraded her security system. The restaurant already has a camera system but Lea said she bought a new safe, lockbox and added deadbolts to all the doors. She also got new keys.

Monday night, Lea said, none of her security measures mattered.

Lea said the thief used a pry bar to bust open a deadbolt to a door to get into the restaurant. Then, Lea said, the thief used the pry bar to break open the door that led to an area where the money was kept. The thief then broke open a safe and the new lockbox.

“So, this one will cost me another safe,” said Lea.

Lea said her camera system showed the thief but the individual is unidentifiable because of a hood and gloves.

Solving the thefts is a top priority for the sheriff’s office, said Undersheriff Travis Johnson.

“It is a lot of money and we want to put every effort into finding out who did it,” said Johnson.

Wolfe said he is frustrated, too.

“We care about our communities. To have them repeat and come back in after the business has taken measures to secure their building better, we take that pretty serious,” said Wolfe.

Lea said there is “no recovering the money.”

“We are going to have sensors added (to doors),” said Lea.

She isn’t sure that would make a difference.

“The profit line is gone for this year,” said Lea.

Lea said The Mirage was hit by thieves one other time many years ago and the individual responsible was arrested.

“So now we will wait for the police to do their job,” said Lea.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.