ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- A robber using buy-sell apps lured Innocent victims to Englewood, where he snatched their cellphones -- one time by pointing a loaded gun at the seller, said city police who arrested him and two alleged accomplices.
A 32-year-old Yonkers man told police he went to the parking lot of a Knickerbocker Road apartment complex in Englewood to buy an iPhone 6 from a man he met on the app on April 2.
"Seeing that the phone was locked, he handed it back to the seller and asked him to unlock it," Detective Capt. Timothy Torell told Daily Voice.
Then he snatched the phone and ran off, he said.
On April 11, a 55-year-old Bergenfield man said he traveled to a similar area in Englewood to buy the same type of phone, Torell said.
This time the deal was made through the “OfferUp” app, the captain said.
"The buyer and seller exchanged cash and the phone, at which time the seller asked the buyer to give him a ride home," Torell said. "The buyer agreed and the seller directed the buyer to the 300 block of Howell Road.
"When they arrived, the seller, as he was getting out of the vehicle, asked the buyer if he could see his phone so he could confirm he cleared all of his information from it."
He then snatched the phone from the seller and fled into a nearby condominium complex.
Four days later, a couple from Manhattan used a "letgo" app to arrange buying the same type of iPhone involved in the first two incidents, Torell said.
The 22-year-old woman and 23-year-old man met with the purported buyer on Knickerbocker Road and gave him cash for the phone, he said.
"As the buyers began to leave, the seller told them that he left his SIM card in the phone," Torell said. "During that discussion, just like during the second incident, the [thief] forcibly removed the phone from the woman and ran off."
Her male companion chased the thief "and soon realized that the suspect had an accomplice waiting nearby," the captain said.
Both of them off through backyards, he said.
Englewood detectives caught a break on April 28, when a 43-year-old Guttenberg usng the "letgo" app arranged to to buy an iPhone at the same Englewood complex where the first victim was robbed, Torell said.
At one point, the would-be seller pulled a handgun and robbed the victim of cash, he said.
Patrol officers and detectives flooded the area.
One of them, Anthony Gallo, recognized the descriptions of the suspects -- one of them a light-skinned man with a chinstrap beard and goatee who lives in a condo complex on Glenbrook Parkway.
As police began surrounding the residence, Officers Danny Wenz, Ron Johnson and Jaime Gillert heard noises from inside the condo and also detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside.
They established a perimeter and raided the apartment with the help of a Bergen County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.
Inside they found 18-year-old Joshua Emmanuel hiding under a pile of clothing in a closet, carrying the victim's cash in his shoe insoles and a small amount of marijuana, Torell said.
"He was also clutching two cell phones in his hand that were consistent with the advertised phones for sale during the 'letgo' and 'OfferUp' app thefts and robberies," the captain said.
Emmanuel was arrested, along with two others in the residence -- a 15-year-old boy and 19-year-old Jeremiah Medina, both from Englewood.
Emmanuel was charged with armed robbery and marijuana possession, among other charges, and ordered held in the Bergen County Jail pending a detention hearing.
Medina was charged with hindering, as was the youngest teen, who Torell said also had a knife. He was released under New Jersey's 2017 bail reform law.
The minor was later released to a guardian pending a hearing on a juvenile complaint in the Family Division of Superior Court in Hackensack.
"In light of these recent incidents in our city, we’re urging people who use these types of buy-sell apps to take certain safety precautions," Torell said.
These include: "Avoid going to someone else’s home. Avoid having someone come to your home. Meet people in very public and busy places during daylight hours and never go with someone in their vehicle or give them a ride in yours.
"You just never know who’s on the other end of an App deal," the captain said.
Since Emmanuel's arrest, no other similar robberies or thefts have been reported in the city, he said.
Although Emmanuel is considered the primary suspect in all of the robberies, city detectives were explosing the possibility that he had accomplices, Torell said.
"We’re reviewing video from the area, as well as electronic and web-based evidence," the captain said.
Anyone with information that could help the investigation could be eligible for a cash reward through the round-the-clock Bergenfield-Englewood-Teaneck-Hackensack CrimeStoppers line: 1-844-466-6789.
Or they can call city detectives directly: (201) 568-4875.
Tips can even be submitted through the CrimeStoppers’ website: www.bergencrimestoppers.org.