An ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet was walking with a gas can in the middle of the afternoon when a Lyndhurst police officer pulled up and asked where he was headed.
Antwon Cooper, 43, of Hillside, NJ told Officer Matthew Giunta that his Hyundai Sonata had run out of gas just up the road.
Cooper ended up getting a ride -- to police headquarters.
What he didn't know was that Giunta had already found the abandoned vehicle on Polito Avenue and began investigating, Detective Lt. Vincent Auteri said.
The Hyundai had a temporary California license plate that didn't match the VIN number on the dash, Auteri said.
A check of the VIN number also showed that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Newark, he said.
A passing motorist stopped and pointed Giunta toward a man walking with a gas can up Rutherford Avenue. So the officer went looking for him.
Giunta was joined by Officer Salvatore Wartel, who found Cooper carrying 25 pills of Ecstasy, Auteri said.
Calling Cooper a career criminal isn't an overstatement.
Records show nearly two dozen arrests over the past two decades in no fewer than four New Jersey counties -- Bergen, Essex, Union and Mercer.
The crime include robbery, burglary, drugs, receiving stolen property and weapons offenses, some of which he ended up serving prison time for.
This time, Lyndhurst police charged Cooper with receiving stolen property and drug possession. They sent him to the Bergen County Jail only to have a judge release him the next day pending further court action, records show.
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