Two members of the gang that robbed the Fort Lee shopping center were rushing to work when an undercover police team caught them, officials said.
Officers and detectives from the Plainclothes Crime Unit are on the lookout for a spate of wallet thefts from shopping carts and vehicles at Plaza West and Lynnwood Plaza on Bergen Boulevard, according to Capt. Edward Young.
The captain secretly watched as the BMW X5 flagged for the previous robbery was parked in the Plaza West parking lot.
The vehicle eventually left the parking lot, headed for Bergen Boulevard, and stopped at the parking lot of Palisades Wines & Liquor, he said.
Corona passenger Vitaliano Latorre Guerrero, 54, got off after the driver, identified as Sebastian Olaya Manrique, 34, of Jackson Heights, returned to the scene, Young said.
La Torre Guerrero went to the back of another parked vehicle and began removing the license plate with a screwdriver.
Both men were promptly arrested.
Swapping license plates is a familiar tactic used by the thieves tracked by the Fort Lee police to avoid identification, Young said.
Both Olaya-Manrique and Latorre-Guerrero were found responsible for the recent robberies and theft from retail lots, he added.
Both were sent to Bergen County Jail to await their first appearance before the Central Court of Justice in Hackensack on various charges, including robbery and theft.
Meanwhile, the youth reminded citizens to “stay vigilant, always be aware of their surroundings, and always report any suspicious type of behavior or activity to law enforcement immediately.”
Police would rather respond to a call that turns out to be of no avail than discover that someone has already committed a crime and got away with it, he said.
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