A 22-year-old West New York resident and two men from Union City have been arrested and held without bail in Hudson County Jail in Kearny in connection with a string of armed robberies throughout Union City and North Bergen.
According to Union City Detective Sgt. Emilio Gonzalez, Union City and North Bergen police arrested Jose Rivera, 22, of West New York, late Tuesday night, at the Hilltop Motel in North Bergen, and initially charged him with six counts of armed robbery, six counts of possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle.
Rivera was arrested and brought to Hudson County Jail, where he was held without bail because, according to Gonzalez, he is a parole violator.
North Bergen police are "pretty certain" that Rivera was "involved" in several of the North Bergen armed robberies, including three at two different township gas stations over the last week, Capt. Robert Farley of the North Bergen Police Department said.
"We believe that he's involved in several of the robberies and we're continuing to investigate to see if he's been implicated in others as well," Farley said.
One station, Snappy's Service Station, located at 15th Street and Paterson Plank Road, was hit last Sunday morning when two men pulled up in a vehicle and asked a mechanic to check a leak in the engine.
When the attendant informed the men that there was not a mechanic on duty, the men then pulled a knife and a gun and demanded money. The bandits got away with $770.
Saturday night, two township gas stations were also robbed at gunpoint, apparently by Hispanic males, who first asked to purchase cigarettes, then demanded money, police said.
The bandits hit Olympic Sunoco, located at 51st Street and Tonnelle Avenue, and Power Gas, located at 75th and Tonnelle, in the span of three hours Saturday night. The robbery at Olympic netted $350 in cash and $60 in cigarettes. The Power Gas robbery collected $300 cash. It was not immediately known whether that money had been recovered.
After Rivera was accused of being one of the thieves and apprehended, he then apparently gave Union City detectives the names of accomplices. Twenty-nine-year-old Armando Herrera and 39-year-old Jorge Sierra, both of 39th Street in Union City, were apprehended Wednesday afternoon by Union City detectives, according to Gonzalez.
"Apparently, Herrera and Sierra were driving the vehicle, a Ford Bronco, owned by Sierra, and the three would canvass the gas stations in the area to see which were susceptible to be robbed," Gonzalez said. "Rivera would go in to purchase cigarettes to determine if the coast was clear and Herrera and Sierra would wait a few blocks away. Rivera would commit the crime and go a few blocks to where they were parked and the three would drive away."
According to Gonzalez, by press time, Union City police had accused the trio of involvement in two of the robberies - the Olympic Sunoco in North Bergen and a Getty station on 32nd and Kennedy Boulevard in Union City.
"But we're pretty sure that Rivera was the actor in all counts," Gonzalez said. "And we're checking with Jersey City police to see if they have any similar robberies."
According to Gonzalez, Rivera is also being charged with an armed robbery at Hot Pizza on 21st Street and Kennedy Boulevard Sunday night.
"Rivera apparently acted alone in this robbery," Gonzalez said. "He fled down Kerrigan Avenue and found a woman unloading groceries, who left her keys in the car, then took her car. He was in possession of the car when he was arrested at the Hilltop in North Bergen."
Both police representatives recognized the quick work of their respective departments.
"This was a pretty good crime spree," Gonzalez said. "In cooperation with the North Bergen police, we were able to stop that spree in the matter of five days."
"It was excellent police work," Farley said. "It was a combination between our detectives and Union City detectives that we were able to make quick arrests. I think these arrests will go a long way to rest some of the fears of local residents and gas station owners."