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Elmwood Park Mayor, 65, Foils Utility Scam, Arrest Made

Elmwood Park Mayor Robert Colletti Photo Credit: FACEBOOK photo
John J. Buonocore Photo Credit: MUGSHOT: Courtesy ELMWOOD PARK PD

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- A Little Ferry man accused of claiming to be a utility worker checking the furnace Wednesday chose the wrong target: Elmwood Park Mayor Robert Colletti.

Colletti stopped home for coffee between a breakfast meeting and four afternoon weddings at Borough Hall when he noticed "a figure through the glass at the front door."

"He had a face mask on and some type of bandana around his forehead, with a hardhat on top of that," the mayor told Daily Voice. "He was also carrying a duffel bag with no insignia of any company whatsoever."

Ensuring that his wife was safely behind him, Colletti opened the door.

"He says he's from Public Service and wants to see the furnace," the 65-year-old mayor said. "I asked him, 'Where's your ID? You're standing in front of my hosue with no ID.'

"Then he made like he was going into his duffel bag to get it.

"My wife is behind me saying, 'Bob, he's not from a utility company'," Colletti said. " 'There's no truck outside,' she said. 'He's looking to break in!' "

So Colletti asked the man his name.

"He tells me Jacob-something, then starts backing down the steps," he said.

"Then he turns and heads toward Route 46 and makes a left onto the eastbound lane toward traffic," the mayor said. "Just before he got out of my sight, he looked to see what we were doing."

Colletti's wife was dialing 911.

The mayor headed to Borough Hall as police arrived. Moments later, they had a suspect in custody.

By then it was 11:15 a.m. With 45 minutes to spare before the chain of weddings, Colletti hopped into Police Chief Michael Foligno's car and headed to the arrest scene.

"He wasn't wearing the mask or hat anymore, but you could tell it was him -- about 6-foot-1, not frail, kinda beefy," the mayor said.

Inside the duffel bag were the mask and hat, Foligno said.

John J. Buonocore, 37,  was processed on attempted burglary charges, among other counts, before being released pending a court hearing under the terms of New Jersey's new bail reform law.

"Just another day," Colletti said.

And another lesson, as well, said Foligno.

"Make sure you see proof that someone is with a utility company," the chief said. "ALWAYS ask for ID.

"If you're unsure, keep the door closed and locked and call Public Service -- or call us.

"If they're who they say they are, they won't mind waiting."

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