MAHWAH, N.J. – A proprietor of Arturo’s Restaurant in Midland Park was charged by Mahwah police with vandalizing an eruv in town.
A surveillance image posted on Daily Voice and elsewhere helped lead detectives to Mahwah resident Marcello Allegra, 49, Police Chief James N. Batelli said.
He was issued a summons to appear in court Jan. 9 on criminal mischief charges, the chief said.
"The criminal mischief to the eruv was investigated as a bias crime based on the object that was damaged and what it represented," Batelli said.
However, to charge someone with a bias crime in this instance, under New Jersey law, investigators needed to produce evidence that indicates the vandalism was purposefully based on hatred of Jews -- ordinarily found in a statement made to someone by the perpetrator, for instance.
"We didn't find any evidence of that," the chief said.
The survellance image, captured by a passing motorist, showed a white, dark-haired middle-aged man in a black shirt vandalizing an Orange & Rockland utility pole on Airmont Avenue near Masonicus Road just before 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3, Police Batelli said.
“A short distance away, a white female, middle aged, dark hair, black pants, white or tan shirt is seen standing in close proximity to him and possibly texting on her cell phone,” he said.
Also seen, the chief said, was a black 2017 Audi Q5 or Q7, with New Jersey license plates.
“The vehicle was determined to be an Audi Q5,” Batelli said, “and through investigative work and a database search the registered owner of the vehicle was identified and believed to be the female standing in the photograph.”
“The female was interviewed first by patrol officers and then by detectives of the Mahwah Police Department and provided conflicting stories,” the chief said. “The investigation continued and other individuals interviewed provided information about the incident.
“The female has not been charged.”
Officer Rob Birney first investigated the vandalism, and the case was assigned to Detective Sgt. Kevin Hebert, Batelli said, while also thanking the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office for its assistance with the investigation.
"From the time the incident occurred and was reported to our agency, we have consulted with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Bias Crimes Unit as required under statutory guidelines," the chief said.
Arturo’s opened in Midland Park in 1982.
The Central Avenue restaurant "serves Italian cuisine based on the family recipes of executive chef & owner Arturo Allegra," its Facebook page says. "Indeed the restaurant is a family affair: Arturo’s wife Nicolina serves as head baker, and sons Mario and Marcello run operations."
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