Accused fare evader ‘led’ cops to drugs


A New York man who reportedly stiffed a cabbie before taking off was subsequently found hiding in a Lyndhurst apartment where police said they discovered a cache of illegal drugs. Lyndhurst Police Det. Capt. John Valente said the episode began on Monday, March 9, when police responded to 855 Valley Brook Road after getting a call, at 1:23 a.m., from a taxi driver about a theft of service. Valente said the driver, 39, of Sunnyside, N.Y., told officers that he had picked up a fare in Queens, N.Y., and transported him to a Lyndhurst location when the passenger – listed as a Latino – ran away, failing to pay his $110 fare, heading toward a condominium apartment complex at 855 Valley Brook.

Valente said Officers Charles Giangeruso, Rob Fernandez and Anthony Ricigliano, knowing the suspect’s direction of flight, followed a trail of footprints and tracks in the snow to an apartment in the complex where they believed he ended up.

Police talked with an Asian man who, they said, lived in the condo apartment but who told the officers he had no knowledge of the man they were seeking and claimed the only other individual living in the apartment was an Asian roommate, Valente said.

LPD Above: Jonathan Rodriguez Top Photo: Andrew Lee

Above: Jonathan Rodriguez
Top Photo: Andrew Lee


After they were allowed entry to the apartment, Valente said the officers observed a large assortment of drugs and paraphernalia on table tops, counters and other locations in plain view. And, he said, they discovered a man matching the description of the suspect hiding in the flat.

Both men were taken into custody and Dets. Ronald Guirland and Vincent Auteri successfully applied for and executed a search warrant for the remainder of the apartment.

Jonathan Rodriguez, 31, of Elmhurst, N.Y., the original suspect, and Andrew Lee, 24, of Lyndhurst, the apartment occupant, were both charged with possession of Alprazolam with intent to distribute same within 1,000 feet of a school and within 500 feet of a park, possession of Psilocybin, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia (digital scale and baggies) within 1,000 feet of a school and 500 feet of a park and possession with intent to distribute marijuana greater than 16 ounces.

Lee was also charged with possession of a weapon (brass knuckles) and possession of hollow point bullets (.45-caliber and 9 mm), while Rodriguez was additionally charged with theft of services.

Both were taken to Bergen County Jail in lieu of $110,000 bail for Lee and $100,000 bail for Rodriguez.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff