Theft of computers was inside job, cops say

Photo courtesy Nutley Police/ Ritacco


A Nutley public school employee has been working hard but apparently not on the job he was being paid to do, according to police.

On June 28 police arrested Michael Ritacco, 28, of Lyndhurst, in the offices of the Nutley Board of Education after detectives learned he was allegedly stealing computers from the district.

Ritacco, a school computer technician, has been charged with 10 counts of theft of moveable property and could be facing additional charges in connection with the alleged crime, police said.

The suspect’s uncle, also named Michael Ritacco, is the former Toms River Schools Superintendent awaiting sentencing on corruption charges.

Police said their first break in the case came after learning that anindividual had purchased a white I-Mac Apple computer registered to Nutley public schools from a Saddlebrook pawnbroker.

An investigation led detectives to the recovery of 10 laptops and two Apple desktops from several pawnbrokers. They also discovered that more than 10 additional computers had been sold.

As an offshoot of that investigation, police said Kearny Police had begun its own probe of a pawnbroker in Kearny that was allegedly altering serial numbers to evade the identification of fenced proceeds.

Detectives believe that there could be as many as 30 or more computer units from the Nutley school district unaccounted for and they are working with the school board’s Information & Technology unit to research computer records.

Police said the missing computers are valued at $1,000 apiece so the total loss to the township and the school district could surpass $30,000.

Police Chief John Holland lauded the conscientious Good Samaritan who notified police after learning that the computer purchased was already registered to the district – an action that helped police track down the suspect.

Other incidents logged the past week on the Nutley Police blotter included the following:

June 29

Police said they surprised a group of young people drinking alcohol in Booth Park at 9:55 p.m. and, as a police cruiser approached, the group ran away, dropping cases of beer they were carrying in the process. Police caught up with one of them, a 20-year-old youth, against whom charges are pending.

June 28

Two apparently unrelated cases of vandalism were reported during the morning. At 10:35 a.m. a Florence St. resident reported that several juveniles were kicking decorative stones over the grounds but when the resident confronted the youths, they restored the stones and apologized, police said. At 9:43 a.m. police said a Monsignor Owens Place resident called to report that someone had poured an unknown gel on the resident’s driveway and car and had written curse words. Police are investigating this incident.

June 27

A catcher playing in a women’s softball game at Yantacaw Park told police that spectators had harassed her and had made threatening comments to her. The incident was logged at 8:14 p.m.

At 11:08 a.m. someone driving a tractor trailer pulled in front of a Passaic Ave. business and stole several containers with cooking grease, the business owner reported to police.

A Parallel St. landlord called police at 9:50 a.m. after discovering a lot of damage to a recently vacated apartment. Police documented the damage and advised the landlord about signing a complaint against the former tenants.

June 26

Three juveniles were detained and turned over to their parents’ custody after police stopped them from continuing to kick over several recyclable containers on Centre St. at 11:52 p.m. All three were charged with improper behavior.

A dog that ran out of a Walnut St. resident’s yard attacked a 15-year-old girl walking her dog on that block at around 5 p.m. Both suffered minor injuries. Police issued a summons to the aggressive dog’s owner.

Police stopped Jessica Amaro, 22, of Bloomfield, as she was driving on Harrison St. at 12:52 p.m. and arrested her for an outstanding warrant. She was released after posting the required $339 bail.

A Nutley resident placed a handbag containing valuable electronics on a bench in Yantacaw Park to run a quick lap and, upon returning, found that someone had removed the contents. The incident was logged at 11:28 a.m.

A Bloomfield Ave. resident called police at 6:09 a.m. to report that someone had burgled the resident’s 1993 Ford and stolen several items from it.

After hearing a loud exhaust at 12:22 a.m., a Princeton Ave. resident looked out the window only to someone riding away with the resident’s 1996 Honda. Police are investigating.

June 25

At 3:25 p.m., a Franklin Ave. gas station attendant damaged a customer’s car by breaking a cap off, causing $500 in damage, while fueling, according to police.

At 12:34 a.m. police stopped Nicholas Napatono, 19, of Belleville, near Washington Ave. for allegedly driving erratically and detected a strong odor of suspected marijuana coming from the vehicle. After recovering two bags of marijuana and paraphernalia, police charged Napatono with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He also received motor vehicles summonses. He was released pending a court hearing. Police Director Alphonse Petracco said the department is continuing enhanced drug enforcement.

June 24

At 7:29 p.m. police caught two juveniles trying to break into the Nutley Park and Recreation Building and took them to headquarters where they released them to their parents’ custody. Charges are pending.

June 23

At 6:13 p.m. police responded to a motor vehicle accident on William St. in which the driver had swerved to avoid juveniles skateboarding in the road. No injuries were reported.

June 22

At 3:18 p.m. police responded to Passaic Ave. and Rutgers Place where a 19-year-old female alleged she was struck by a passing car which fled before police arrived. The teen, who complained of a hip injury, was taken to an area hospital.

– Ron Leir

The Observer Staff