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Familiar felon linked to Bergen break-ins was often freed as fast as he was arrested

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Tying Tony Eli to a series of Bergen County break-ins wasn’t much of a stretch: Having spent several years in prison for burglary, car theft and credit card fraud, the drug-addicted man of many aliases has been arrested at least three times since July for crimes in three counties. One involved a 10-mile chase in a stolen car that ended on Route 3 in Clifton — prelude to a pursuit Wednesday that left another driver injured after Eli crashed a stolen Mercedes in Rutherford.


If he received consecutive maximum sentences for previous convictions in three different counties, state records show, 40-year-old Anthony Eli would’ve never seen freedom again.

Yet he kept making bail, and breaking into homes — most of the time while driving on the suspended list — ever since a four-year prison stint ended two years ago last week, according to police and criminal records.

He’s called himself Anthony Benedetto, Eli Christopher, Christopher Eli and Sammy Montalvo, among other aliases, in his “career.” Living the life of a vagabond, moving from town to town, he’s widened his target area, police records show.

After yet another chase involving a stolen car Wednesday morning, the familiar felon was brought to Rutherford police headquarters. It apparently didn’t take long for him to begin confessing to detectives that he’d broken into a host of Pascack Valley homes in what essentially was a triangle: Washington Township, Hillsdale, and Westwood.

Ru therford Police Detective Lt. Patrick Feliciano issued a news release abou t the arrest of career criminal Anthony Eli and the heroism of a patrolman who helped save a man injured when Eli smashed a stolen car into the victim’s vehicle. SEE Rutherford Police news release: Arrest of Anthony Eli

Eli’s criminal record stretches back at least 15 years. He was living in Belleville when he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison on Oct. 6, 1995 for theft. Soon after getting out, he was again arrested and convicted, this time when he was found with stolen loot. He was fined $250 and let go.

Then came an Oct. 2004 prison sentence of five years for a host of burglaries and other crimes. Eli was out in less than four.

NJ State Dept. of Corrections mugshot

The scariest of the incidents allegedly involving him occurred a year ago last week, when police chased a stolen SUV with Eli and two other men inside at high speeds after a burglary in Fairfield. The trio eventually were caught when they hit traffic on Route 3 East in Clifton. Eli later made bail.

His tactics, if you want to call them that, are those of the typical suburban burglar: Eli has told police in more than one jurisdiction that he ordinarily kicks in doors during the daytime when people aren‘t home, then dashes to the master bedrooms, loots jewelry, and bolts before the alarm companies can alert police.

Police said Eli admitted going in through the back door while a female accomplice waited in a car out front of a North Arlington home in late July. The victim spotted them and called police on her cellphone while trailing the getaway car, which police later traced to a rental company. Finding the driver was easy: She was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.

Carteret police found Eli and brought him back to Bergen County. But he eventually posted 10 percent of his $15,000 bail, records show.

Last month, Eli was arrested and charged with breaking into three Somerset County homes the same June day. One of the burglaries netted a jewelry box with a wedding ring and Rolex watch, among other treasures — $40,000 worth in all.

As in Rutherford, police in Long Hill reportedly sat back and listened as Eli admitted burglarizing the homes and pawning the booty in Newark. In just about every case, the ice is melted down and unrecoverable. Bergen’s victims can expect a similar outcome if Eli turns out to be their serial burglar.

He was free on 10 percent of $10,000 bail for the Somerset complaints when he was arrested in October and charged with three break-ins in Morris County — including stealing nearly $18,500 worth of valuables from a home in Gillette and swiping a Toyota Highlander in Millington.

Eli was released on his own recognizance — and, so, the spree continued, police said.

It’s only natural that investigators in other towns with unsolved burglaries will want a crack at Tony Eli. That includes departments in Ho-Ho-Kus, Paramus, Ramsey, Saddle River and Wood-Ridge.

The one difference: They’ll be able to take their time. Eli clearly isn’t going anywhere — not this time.

Wednesday’s chase and crash left the driver of the other car alive but battered on a Rutherford sidewalk, where he was immediately tended to by borough Police Officer Andrzej Hein. In turn, a judge ordered Eli held on a full $250,000 bail at the Bergen County Jail.

When his next breath of freedom will come — or even if — is anyone’s guess.

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