Nutley Police identify cat burglar; Suspect believed to be in Puerto Rico

By Kevin Canessa Jr. | Observer Correspondant 
Police know who their cat burglar is. Only thing is, he’s likely in Puerto Rico right now. Nutley Police Chief John Holland and Detective Bureau Commander Steven Rogers announced last week that after an intense investigation by detectives, an arrest warrant has been issued for Miguel P. Fontanez, 51, of Newark. Fontanez has been charged with two counts of burglary, and two counts of theft, stemming from two burglaries that took place Sept. 20 in the township, according to Rogers.

Detectives have determined, based on cell phone records of one of the victims, that Fontanez is likely with his girlfriend in Puerto Rico. A victim, who Rogers said called them after getting a cell phone bill, noticed there were two mysterious calls – one to a Newark residence (believed to be Fontanez’s) and another, to a Puerto Rico phone number, believed to be his girlfriend.

Rogers said detectives initially went to the home where the phone call was made to Newark. When detectives arrived there, he said they found merchandise that was likely taken from homes in Nutley. That merchandise, he said, was what allowed detectives to definitively link Fontanez to the crimes. “When they found the merchandise, it immediately linked him,” Rogers said. “There was enough probable cause then to get the arrest warrants. Now, we just hope he turns himself in.”

Since Fontanez is believed to be in Puerto Rico, an extradition might not be easy, Rogers said. Still, the Nutley Police Department will work with law enforcement officials there to try to get Fontanez back here. Additionally, all the necessary authorities in the United States have been informed of the warrant out for Fontanez’s arrest.

“Every police department in New Jersey has been notified by a flier,” Rogers said. “We’ve notified the U.S. Marshalls, Customs and other appropriate agencies. So if he steps foot into the continental United States, we’ll have him.” As is the case with many burglars, Rogers said Fontanez made a huge mistake using one of his victim’s cell phones. “He made a major error, as most criminals do, with his modus operandi,” Rogers said. Rogers said Fontanez should face jail time if he’s captured and convicted. The chief praised Detectives Sgts. Anthony Raffaelli and Jeff Luberto, who were both primarily responsible for determining Fontanez’s culpability.

“The Nutley Detective Bureau ran down every lead they were given,” Holland said. “They stayed with it ever since. Their work was tremendous.” Holland himself was relieved because he feels residents can relax knowing the suspect’s days of burglaries are over. “Things rise to a whole new level with burglaries,” Holland said. “There’s nothing more frightening for resident than knowing there’s a cat burglar out there. I am sure residents can sleep much better now.”

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