Elmwood Park mayor thwarts would-be burglar posing as utility worker

Thursday, March 23, 2017
Elmwood Park mayor thwarts would-be burglar posing as utility worker
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AJ Ross has more from Elmwood Park.

ELMWOOD PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A would-be thief apparently picked the wrong house to target in New Jersey.

Police say the man was posing as a utility worker when he knocked on the door of Elmwood Park Mayor Robert Colletti, who immediately knew something was off about the visitor. He stared him down, asked the right questions, and eventually chased him off.

Elmwood Park police Chief Michael Foligno tells Eyewitness News that there had been 10 burglaries in the area in the past two months, and they're now investigating to see if the suspect could be connected to others incidents.

The incident happened Wednesday.

"I see this shadow in the front door, and I'm looking through the glass," Colletti said. "And I'm saying what the heck is this?"

In between a packed schedule full of meetings and marriage ceremonies, Colletti stopped home to check on his wife when a stranger rang the bell.

"It was a fella standing there with a mask on up to his nose, then he had another bandana on his forehead that had reflective material on it," he said. "I guess to try to look official. I don't know."

Colletti said something seemed off from the start about the man dressed in a hard hat and shabby disguise with a duffle bag in hand, but he claimed he was with Public Service and needed to check the furnace.

"I said, 'You want to get in my house without ID?'" he said. "And now my wife is in back of me, and she's saying, 'Bob, he's a fake. There's no truck outside.'"

Colletti said he stared the suspect down and scared him off when he revealed he was the mayor of the town. The suspect ran toward Route 46, while Colletti's wife called 911. Police arrested the suspect within minutes.

He has since been identified as 37-year-old John Buonocore, of Little Ferry, who is now facing charges including attempted burglary.

"A lot of people fall for that scam," Foligno said. "They'll say their from a utility company, and they usually work in pairs. And one will go down to look at the boiler, and the other will ransack the major bedrooms and stuff. But quick thinking on the mayor's part."

Police also found a knife in Buonocore's bag during his arrest. Still, Colletti can't help but find a small bit of humor in the botched attempt.

"He looked like a character from that movie 'Home Alone,' those thieves, that's what it looked like," he said. "A bumbling fool...He picked the wrong house. He came to the mayor's. Might as well gone to the police chief's house too."