KPD: Beware of phone scam

Kearny detectives are investigating the attempted extortion of more than $1,300 from a local woman by telephone scamsters, one of whom pretended to be a police officer.

Police Chief John Dowie said the 30-year-old target was first contacted June 11 by a caller who identified himself as “Jimmy Brown,” representing an online loan company, and who demanded immediate repayment of borrowed money.

Suspicious of the call, she hung up, only to be contacted several hours later by another man who identified himself as a police officer phoning on behalf of Brown. If she did not make immediate restitution, the “cop” warned, she would be arrested.

The woman was advised to buy several hundred dollars’ worth of Green Dot Money- Pak prepaid debit cards and then phone back for more instructions. When she did so, the “cop” asked for her address, saying he would be mailing her pertinent documents. After no documentation arrived, she phoned the number from the initial call, only to be told by yet another man, “Julius,” that she now owed an additional penalty and should buy more debit cards, Dowie said.

In total, the intended victim reportedly purchased $1,357 worth of cards, but wisely never mailed them. Instead, last week she filed a report with the KPD.

The case has been turned over to the Detective Bureau.

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

June 21 

Officers Jose Canela and Pat Becker responded to an 8:45 a.m. report of a boyfriend/girlfriend dispute near Elizabeth Ave. and Morgan Place, where the male had allegedly pushed the female to the ground and fled with her cell phone.

Located and arrested in the area was Michael Vargas, 32, of Kearny, charged with assault and robbery and on two outstanding Kearny warrants.

 June 22 

Officer David Rakowski, on patrol at 8 a.m., saw an SUV run a red light and make an erratic turn from Belgrove Drive onto Bergen Ave., police said. When the cop stopped the vehicle on Bergen, the driver allegedly identified herself as Sandra Ezpinoza. The SUV was impounded when headquarters reported Ezpinoza had no license. Further investigation revealed that the woman was actually Sandra Arevalo, 38, of Harrison, who had a revoked license, police said. When she showed up at HQ to claim the SUV, she was charged with driving while suspended, disregard of a traffic light and careless driving.

 June 23 

At 6:30 a.m., Officer Tom Bannon, Sgt. Paul Bershefski and Chief Dowie responded to a report of a disorderly man at Elm St. and Quincy Ave. and encountered an “intoxicated” Nelson Santiago, 51, of Newark. He was warned about his behavior and sent on his way. Shortly after, however, Bannon saw him walking in traffic on Kearny Ave. near Quincy. Advised to get out of the street, he allegedly became defiant and profane and, with Bershefski and Officer Joseph Vulcano providing backup, was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with transportation.

At 9 p.m., Vice detectives witnessed what they believed to be a drug transaction in a double-parked car on Halstead St. near Kearny Ave. Approaching the vehicle, they reportedly saw a clear plastic bag containing suspected marijuana on the occupant’s lap. Hugo Villanueva, 22, of Kearny, was charged with possession of pot and drug paraphernalia.

June 25 

At 3:40 p.m., Officer John Fabula was checking Sanford Ave. near the railroad tracks, an area police say is known for criminal conduct and drug use, when he encountered Christopher Horn, 34, of Harrison, who was reported to be the subject of a $2,500 warrant out of Caldwell. Horn was arrested, and Caldwell authorities were notified.

– Karen Zautyk

 (Editor’s note/public service announcement: In recent days, a number of vehicles, most of them left unlocked and with valuables clearly visible inside, have been hit by thieves in the northern section of town, from Midland Ave. to the Belleville Pike. Once again, the KPD politely requests that you lock your cars. Your correspondent not so politely suggests that you unlock your brains.)

The Observer Staff