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Victims lead police to arrest in cop impersonation theft

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Two men who said they were initially fooled by a man posing as a police officer helped lead the real cops to a suspect who was arrested by Lyndhurst detectives today.

Milan Patel (MUGSHOT courtesy Lyndhurst PD)

The 27-year-old victims told police they pulled up to their house around 3:45 a.m. Saturday when a car that seemed to be following them also stopped.

A man got out, identified himself as a police officer and claimed he’d followed them because they were speeding on Route 3, Lyndhurst Police Capt. John J. Valente told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

Without showing them any identification, the man patted them down and took the wallets and cellphones of the victims, the captain said.

He then said he “was going to run a computer check on both” of them but took off after getting back into his car.

The victims not only gave police a detailed description of the would-be officer: They also got the license plate number of the black, four-door Honda Civic he was driving, Valente said.

“It turned out it wasn’t his car,” Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “But the plate number led us directly to the business where he works.”

Detective Lt. Patrick Devlin, who worked the investigation with Detective Sgt. John Kerner, arrested the suspect today.

Milan Patel, 21, was released on his own recognizance pending a Jan. 24 Municipal Court hearing in Lyndhurst on charges of theft and impersonating a police officer.

O’Connor reminded citizens of their rights when someone tries to pull them over: All police officers are required to carry a department ID card — at the very least, the chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

If you are suspicious of a non-uniformed police officer, he said, contact your local police department or dial 911 and ask that a marked unit be dispatched.

“If you’re anxious or afraid, you can signal that you want to move forward to a better-lighted area,” New Jersey State Police Sgt. Brian Polite added.

The more people who come forward, and the more they notice, Polite emphasized, the better case detectives can make.

In doing so, hopefully they can deter others from doing the same thing, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

“This is definitely a safety issue,” Polite said.

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