YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Englewood detectives and SWAT team members used a “flash-bang” device to storm a city home as part of several quick-strike raids and arrests of members of a local gang charged with a reign of terrifying street holdups and muggings.
City detectives were joined by their department’s Emergency Services Unit and a Bergen County Police Department SWAT team in taking up positions outside the Tenafly Road home the night of April 16.
“We had reason to believe there was an assault-type rifle inside,” Detective Capt. Timothy Torell told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning. “That, coupled with other factors, allowed us to get a ‘no knock’ warrant for entry.”
Around 9:30 that night, a man identified as Jaime Correa, 18, pulled up to the house and exchanged money for pot with someone inside, Torell said.
The signal was given and the tactical teams stormed the house.
“These types of operations require split-second timing and constant training,” Torell said. “For the safety of the officers moving in and the surrounding residents, what is commonly called a ‘flash-bang’ device was activated.
“It causes no physical injury, but the percussion temporarily disorients anyone in the immediate area not expecting it.”
Correa , 18, of Englewood, was immediately taken into custody, along with 29-year-old Joél “Joe” Carela, who the captain said lives in the house, and city resident Jay Leon.
Also arrested were the vehicle occupants, identified as 27-year-old Ilan Levi of Fort Lee and Tomer Parselani, 22, of New York City. They were released on summonses and weren’t considered part of the overall investigation, Torell said.
Inside the house, detectives found marijuana and packaging materials, as well as a .22-caliber sport carbine that was hidden in a bathroom, he said.
The rifle is among a group of knockoffs designed to look like assault weapons, the captain said.
“In and of itself, it’s not illegal to possess,” he said. “But in conjunction with everything else that was discovered, it was seized and charges related to it were later lodged,” he said.
Those arrested were charged in connection with a series of incidents the nights of April 6, 10 and 14:
A 28-year-old Bergenfield man told police he was walking along Tenafly Road, just south of West End Avenue, just before 3 a.m. April 6 when he was beaten and robbed of more than $1,900 by several men. He’d just been paid at his laborer job and recognized his attackers from a neighborhood he frequent. He was treated for facial injuries at Englewood Medical Center.
On April 14, a 28-year-old Englewood man told police he’d been terrorized four days earlier by a group of young men he threatened him with a knife, beat him and took his iPhone — outside the Tenafly Road home.
“He told the officer he knew one of his attackers from school and the neighborhood,” Torell said. “He didn’t report the incident initially out of fear of retaliation.”
Around 10 p.m. on April 14, a 42-year-old jitney bus driver from North Bergen said she pulled over on eastbound Route 4 near the Englewood/Teaneck border for a fare and was robbed of her cash by two men — one with a handgun.
An hour later, a 37-year-old Englewood man told police he was walking home on Third Street when two men, one with a handgun, robbed him of the cash from his wallet.
A half-hour after that, an 18-year-old Cliffside Park man flagged down an officer and said he’d just been robbed of his iPhone and cash by several men as he delivered pizza to a Brookway Avenue address, barely a half-mile from the Third Street holdup.
Working informants, interviewing victims and talking with others in the community, Englewood detectives narrowed down the suspects to a group known to sell pot in the Third Ward, Torell said.
The lead investigators, Detective Sgt. Christopher Kedersha and Detective Carlos Marte obtained warrants for Correa and Carela in connection with the first robbery, the captain said. They were ordered held on $50,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail.
The case then began to fall into place.
Another defendant identified as a major player is Leon, who was arrested during the Tenafly Road raid and charged with both the April 6 and April 10 holdups.
Also charged in both robberies is 21-year-old Emmanuel “Siete” Mosquea-DeJesus of Brooklyn.
Detectives on Tuesday were on their way to the Bergen County Jail to charge Correa, Leon and Mosquea-DeJesus with the pizza deliveryman robbery when they ran into Leon, who’d just been released after posting bail in the Tenafly Road case, Torell said.
“Leon resisted arrest and tried to escape,” the captain told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “He was brought under control with the assistance of other sheriff’s officers who were in the area at the time.”
Detectives took Leon to city police headquarters, added a resisting arrest charge and had his bail boosted by $2,500.
The various charges against him include aggravated assault with a weapon and several weapons possession charges.
Carela also was charged with additional counts while in the county jail in connection with the Tenafly Road raid. These include aggravated assault in connection with the April 10 robbery.
Charged in the April 10 pizza holdup and the April 14 Third Street and jitney bus robberies is Roberto “Bugz” Tavarez, also of Englewood.
Torell said Tavarez is a member of a Brooklyn-based rapper criminal street gang who committed the crimes along with fellow gang member Ivan “Live” Santos “to elevate his stature within the gang.”
Police charged Tavares with a seldom-used “gang criminality” statute, along with first-degree armed robbery.
Santos, of Brooklyn, remained a fugitive.
Also charged in the jitney bus robbery are Correa and Mosquea-DeJesus.
“Our detectives have reliable information that other robberies may have occurred that were not reported to the police,” Torell said this morning.
“We are asking that anyone who was the victim of a robbery or assault in the Englewood and Teaneck areas recently who report the crimes to contact the Englewood Detective Bureau (201-568-4875),” he said.
The captain also asked that anyone who knows the whereabouts of Santos to call police.
“He is to be considered armed and dangerous,” Torell said.
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