HALEDON, N.J. -- An 18-year-old Haledon man suspected in three late-night food delivery robberies cinched his arrest when he made a phone call from headquarters to the number used to place two of the orders, authorities said Tuesday night.
Several Haledon officers and detectives worked together to seize borough resident Richard Hobson, Jr. and three juveniles -- one of them a 17-year-old runaway from Paterson.
The first robbery victim, who worked for a Fair Lawn restaurant, told police a man suddenly emerged from a dark driveway in the 400 block of Roe Street while another lurked in the background during a delivery just after 1 a.m. Dec. 12.
The man snatched the food from his hands and gave him a $50 bill that turned out to be counterfeit, he said.
Both then ran off, he told police.
Police returned to the same block just before 10 p.m. on Dec. 22 and spoke with a delivery man from Paterson who said he was ordered out of his car by two men with handguns wearing ski masks, Lt. George Guzman said.
After rifling through his pockets, the pair ran off with the cash he had and the food, the victim told police.
Police were back on the 400 block of Roe Street two nights later, Guzman said.
There, a food delivery man from North Haledon told them, a robber "lured the victim into the dark driveway and pointed a small black handgun directly at him and demanded, 'Put everything down, and give me all of your money!'," the lieutenant said.
An accomplice emerged and both searched his pockets, the victim told police.
"Turn around, keep quiet, or I will shoot you!" one of them yelled, he said.
They then ran off with food and cash, he said.
Investigators who pieced together the details of the three holdups got their first break just after 10 p.m., Dec. 27, when Detective Tim Lindberg and Officer April Latona, patroling in an unmarked unit, spotted four people -- two of them wearing ski marks -- walking on East Barbour Street near Roe Street looking into parked cars, Guzman said.
Hobson, who was wearing a mask, "did not have any identification and could not provide an accurate name or contact information," the lieutenant said.
The other three were juveniles who were violating the borough curfew, he said.
They "were taken into short-term custody for their health and welfare and their parents were to be notified," Guzman said.
Hobson, after being identified at headquarters, asked to make a phone call, the lieutenant said.
Lindberg and Latona "noticed that the number [he] dialed was the same number used to in two out of the three robberies," he said.
Hobbs then "openly confessed to Haledon detectives, via audio/video, that he committed the first two robberies [and] that he was in fact holding a small black handgun during the second robbery," Guzman said.
It was a .380-caliber semi-automatic, he said.
Hobson "also admitted that he used a counterfeit $50 bill in the first robbery," Guzman said.
Based on the confession, coupled with the circumstances, police obtained a search warrant for Hobson's home in the 400 block of Belmont Avenue, the lieutenant said. A spent .380-caliber shell was found on the property, he said.
Latona, Lindberg and Detective Sgt. George Kelly also discovered that the gun had been tossed in the area where Hobson and the others were originally stopped, he said.
A Passaic County Sheriff’s K-9 who was summoned to the scene found it in the area of Post Street and East Barbour Street.
Two of the victims identified Hobson and one of the juveniles as the robbers, Guzman said.
Police then charged Hobson with armed robbery, robbery, conspiracy, employing a juvenile in a crime, making terroristic threats, hindering, forgery and weapons offenses, among other counts.
A judge ordered him held on $150,000 bail in the Passaic County Jail.
A delinquency complaint was filed against the 17-year-old from Paterson charging him with several of the same offenses, Guzman said. He also received a summons for the curfew violation and was remanded to the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center, the lieutenant said.
Deputy Chief Angelo Daniele, the department's officer in charge, commended his detectives and officers, as well as the sheriff's "superb K-9 unit for always rising to the occasion."
Sheriff Richard Berdnik returned the compliment, saying that the Haledon force "conducted a very professional and comprehensive investigation....The location of this weapon might have prevented further gun violence on the streets of Passaic County."
Guzman credited "superb attention to detail" in the case by all of those involved, including members of the Haledon force:
- Detective Sgt. George Kelly
- Detective Tim Lindberg
- Officer April Latona
- Sgt. Jessica Funes
- Officer Jake Rutkowski
- Officer Michael Palmer
- Officer Edar Merza
- Officer Semir Celoski
Guzman also participated in the investigation, search and arrests.
Also participating were Special Police Officers Steven Guzman, James Iandoli and Tim McDonough.