YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: An ongoing investigation that began six months ago has led to the arrests of five men and the recovery of hundreds of valuables stolen in no fewer than 40 daytime residential burglaries in five counties, including Rockland.
The haul includes jewelry, electronics, antique coins, cellphones, a safe and three of seven guns stolen from a Washington Township home — in what Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli late this afternoon called “one of the largest recoveries of stolen proceeds in recent years.”
A multi-jurisdictional task force consisting of detectives from various police departments joined forces to crack the break-ins, which Molinelli said involved three different sets of suspects taken down in arrests that began last month.
On Feb. 10, task force members arrested Daniel Gomez, 46, of Union City ( above, top left ) and Julio Ponce, 33, of Clifton ( above, top middle ) following a burglary in Englewood’s Third Ward. The pair had been casing homes in Tenafly and Englewood, said investigators who watched them ( SEE: Bergen-led task force ties pair nabbed in Englewood break-in to three-county burglary spree ).
Ponce was being held on $300,000 bail and Gomez on $115,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail. Both are charged with burglaries in Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fairfield, Franklin Lakes and River Edge between Jan. 16-Feb. 10, records show.
Three days later, two men wanted in connection with a series of burglaries in Upper Saddle River and Paramus were picked up by South Hackensack police, who said they found the pair carrying 50 bags of heroin with the street name “007” and burglary tools bail ( SEE: South Hackensack police nab pair wanted in Paramus, Upper Saddle River burglaries ).
Michael Vincent Puig, 25, of Paramus ( above, bottom middle )was being held on a combined $610,000 bail in county lockup.
He was charged with burglaries in Paramus, Upper Saddle River and South Hackensack between Feb. 13-28 — including one involving a handgun from an Upper Saddle River home.
Puig’s alleged accomplice, 35-year-old Gino Manna Jr. of Paterson ( above, bottom left ) is charged with an Upper Saddle River break-in, along with theft, criminal mischief and drug possession. His bail was $105,000.
Charges against both were pending from other jurisdictions, Molinelli said this afternoon.
A Feb. 13 Upper Saddle River burglary led investigators to the pair after they tracked a stolen computer to Puig’s home in Paramus, the prosecutor said.
During a subsequent search, he said, task force recovered jewelry, electronics and personal items from burglaries “in and around Bergen County,” while seizing drugs, drug paraphernalia and three guns stolen in a residential break-in on Ridgewood Road in Washington Township ( SEE: Five rifles, two handguns stolen in Washington Township home burglary ).
Task force members made the fifth arrest on Feb. 17 in Fair Lawn when they took John Cando, 38, of North Bergen ( above, right ) into custody.
Cando, whom task force members had been watching for several weeks, is charged with break-ins and thefts in Fair Lawn, Mahwah and Oakland — and is also tied to burglaries out of Oakland and in the Monmouth County towns of Oceanport and Tinton Falls, Molinelli said.
Cando was the only one of the five to secure his release, posting $50,000 bail a week after his arrest.
Each defendant is single and unemployed, Molinelli noted. All have arraignments in Central Municipal Court set for next Wednesday.
Overall, the prosecutor said, those arrested were linked to 42 burglaries in: Allendale, Englewood, Franklin Lakes, Fairfield, Fair Lawn, Hillsdale, Mahwah, Nutley, Oakland, Oceanport, Old Tappan, Parsippany, Pearl River (NY), Ridgewood, River Edge, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Tinton Falls, Totowa, Verona, Waldwick, Washington Township and Woodcliff Lake.
Additional charges from other jurisdictions were expected as authorities continue trying to locate owners of the recovered goods, Molinelli said.
He credited several agencies “for their assistance and cooperation”
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Cliffside Park, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Franklin Lakes, Mahwah, Oakland, Paramus, River Edge, Rutherford, Tenafly, Saddle River, South Hackensack, Upper Saddle River and Belleville, Fairfield, Jersey City, North Bergen and Verona.
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