Undercover Unit Busts Burglars Hitting Fort Lee Shoppers' Cars

Two members of a Queens burglary crew who've been hitting Fort Lee shopping centers were hard at work when an undercover team of police caught them in the act, authorities said.

Vitaliano Latorre-Guerrero (top), Sebastian Olaya-Manrique

Vitaliano Latorre-Guerrero (top), Sebastian Olaya-Manrique

Photo Credit: INSETS: BCJ / BACKGROUND: Jerry DeMarco

Plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit officers and detectives have been keeping an eye on Plaza West on Bergen Boulevard amid a rash of thefts of purses from shopping carts and vehicles there and at Linwood Plaza, Capt. Edward Young said.

They were secretly watching when a BMW X5 that had been flagged in a previous burglary pulled into a parking spot in the Plaza West lot around 4 p.m. Dec. 22, the captain said.

The vehicle eventually left the lot, headed along Bergen Boulevard and pulled into the lot at Palisades Wine & Liquor, he said.

The driver – identified as Sebastian Olaya-Manrique, 34, of Jackson Heights -- backed into the spot, after which passenger Vitaliano Latorre-Guerrero, 54, of Corona got out, Young said.

Latorre-Guerrero went to the rear of another parked vehicle and began removing the license plate with a screwdriver, he said.

Both men were instantly arrested.

Switching license plates is a familiar tactic that the band of thieves being tracked by Fort Lee police have been using to keep from being identified, Young noted.

It turns out Olaya-Manrique and Latorre-Guerrero were both responsible for multiple recent burglaries and thefts from retail business lots, he said.

A judge in Hackensack later refused to release either of them from the Bergen County Jail.Olaya-Manrique and Latorre-Guerrero remained held there on Friday, Dec. 30, eight days after their arrests, on burglary and theft charges, among other counts.

Young, meanwhile, reminded citizens to “remain vigilant, always be aware of your surroundings and always report any suspicious type behavior or activity immediately to law enforcement.”

Police would rather respond to a call that turns out to be nothing than discover that someone has already committed a crime and taken off, he said.

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