South Brunswick police charge Florida man with exploiting area pizzerias during pandemic

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SOUTH BRUNSWICK – A man believed to be in Florida has been charged in connection to more than a dozen incidents in which he targeted the goodwill of area restaurants during the current pandemic.

Many of the impacted pizzerias have either donated food or received calls from residents willing to pay for food to be donated to area hospitals or first responders to thank them for all they are doing.

The suspect, age 34, believed to be living in the Orlando area, allegedly targeted the pizzerias and restaurants where he placed large food orders over the past month. Each time he indicated he would pick it up the order or it was intended for local police, according to information provided by the South Brunswick Police Department.

In several of the follow up calls the pizzerias made to the phone number that placed the order, the suspect allegedly would make statements about Italians and wished they would be afflicted with the coronavirus, according to the statement.

In total, several thousand dollars have been lost by the pizzerias from the fraud in three counties. In South Brunswick the following locations were targeted Kendall Park Pizzeria, Capriccio Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant, Pizza Delizia Restaurant, Giuseppe Pizzeria and Restaurant and Pierre’s Deli. In addition pizzerias and restaurants in Montgomery, Plainsboro and West Windsor were victimized.

“It is incomprehensible that a suspect would play on the goodwill of so many during these difficult times. The suspect once placed an order saying it was coming to South Brunswick police. We have had several residents send us food, which I appreciate tremendously, but this suspect has gone to a new low. Our businesses are all struggling and every dollar matters. I am not sure there is an adequate charge for what he is doing,” Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in the statement.

The suspect used a voice override service to mask his real phone number, but South Brunswick Detective Tim Hoover and Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Ryan Tighe were able to track his true identity, according to the statement. Detectives are working with Florida authorities where he is reportedly on probation for selling fake Disney World tickets, police said.

Detectives said the suspect is currently charged with theft; an additional investigation is being conducted to determine if the crimes were bias in nature. Authorities are also looking at the series of cases as potential cyber harassment.