The Montclair Times has reported on Aug. 9 that a man and accomplice posing as auto body repair techs have robbed a woman in Montclair.
The Montclair police are hunting for a man who robbed a township resident in a parking lot off Walnut Street Aug. 8 and, as the suspect was fleeing, his accomplice drove over the victim's foot, sending her to the hospital, according to authorities.
For days prior to the crime, the suspect, who was masquerading as an auto body tech, had been spotted by witnesses trolling the municipal parking lot near the corner of Grove and Walnut streets, behind Marzullo's Restaurant and Grove Pharmacy, according to detectives.
The suspect had been approaching drivers and offering to do dent repairs to any cars that were damaged, police said.
The day before the robbery, the scammer solicited the victim, a Montclair woman in her 40s, offering to fix her front bumper and one of her lights for a low cost, said Detective Lt. Angel Roman Jr. of the Montclair police. The victim and suspect agreed to meet in the parking area the following evening.
On Aug. 8, at about 7:55 p.m. the phony repairman was chauffeured to the parking lot by a driver in a white or silver car. When the suspect met up with the victim, he told her he needed a deposit on the job so he could buy parts, Roman said.
But when the victim opened up her wallet, the suspect just reached in and helped himself, then headed back toward his getaway car, Roman said.
When the victim protested and told him to return the $60 in cash he had snatched, the suspect shoved her and hopped in the car. As the suspects drove off, their vehicle rolled over the victim's right foot, according to police. The car sped off eastbound on Walnut Street.
The victim was taken to St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson.
The robber was described as a "skinny, tall white man with facial hair who was wearing a green shirt with writing on the front and numbers on the back." The victim didn't get a good look at the driver, who was only described as a white male, officials said.
Roman recommended that whenever residents have repairs done to their vehicles, they should have some information about the mechanic offering to fix their cars, including where that individual's workshop is. The agreed-upon meeting place should either be at the mechanic's place of business or someplace where the potential client is "comfortable and where people are around," not in a parking lot at night, Roman said.
He also advised that people avoid exchanging money without having first done some research on the person they are hiring.
"That way you have a location and information, in case something does go wrong," the lieutenant said.
It's also unwise to pay a purported mechanic or contractor "without any work being done."
"If you went to a body shop, you would not pay up front," he said.
Anyone with information that could help the police apprehend the suspects should call Detective Terence Turner at 973-509-4724 or Detective Michael DeGrazio, 973-509-4717.