A Hunterdon County man has been arrested on burglary, theft and weapons charges as a result of an investigation by a task force of law agencies in Hunterdon and Somerset counties.
James Defazio, 32, of Readington, is accused of burglarizing several homes and being in possession of a stolen handgun.
The investigation was conducted by law enforcement officials in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, including police from Bernards Township and Hillsborough, prosecutors for both counties said on Thursday. Although Bernards police were part of the investigating team, Bernards Lt. Mike Voorhees said he could not say specifically whether any of the burglary charges facing Defazio at this time are related to reported burglaries within Bernards Township. He said the case still is being investigated.
However, the press release issued Thursday through the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's office did say that as a result of a search, Defazio allegedly was found to be in possession of a handgun that had been stolen from a Hillsborough home.
The release said that additional charges against Defazio are pending.
“During the months of December and January, the Readington Police Department investigated several residential burglaries. Neighboring jurisdictions also saw an increase in break-ins during the same time period, so a burglary task force was formed with the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office and several other agencies," Readington Township Police Chief Sebastian Donaruma said in the release.
Four break-ins were reported in The Hills section of Bernards Township in December, with another case in Bedminster at about the same time, according to Bernards police. Two other burglaries were reported in northern Basking Ridge in early February.
The announcement of Defazio's arrest was made Thursday by Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano, and the Readington police chief, in conjunction with other chiefs, including Bernards Police Chief Brian Bobowicz and Hillsborough Police Chief Paul Kaminsky.
According to Donaruma, following the increase in burglaries in December and January, detectives gathered intelligence and tips from the public, and as a result surveillance of Defazio was initiated.
"On Feb. 11, the surveillance led police to Union Township in Hunterdon County where Mr. James Defazio was observed in the act of committing a burglary," Donaruma said.
Donaruma said in the news release that Readington Township Officers and task force members apprehended Defazio a short distance from the scene and he allegedly was in possession of proceeds when he was arrested. After Defazio's arrest, Kearns said a search warrant was executed at his home and and for his vehicle. As a result of that search, numerous items allegedly were located from several burglaries that had occurred in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, according to Kearns.
Authorities also allegedly found Defazio to be in possession of a .45 calibre handgun stolen from a residence in Hillsborough Township, he said.
The release said that Defazio was charged by Readington Township police with burglary, receiving stolen property, and the charge of certain person not to posses a firearm. State Judge Stephen B. Rubin, set bail at $200,000, the release said.
State police also charge man
According to the release, the New Jersey State Police also charged Defazio with burglary, a charge on which bail was set at $50,000. Defazio was sent to the Hunterdon County Jail, according to the Hunterdon prosecutor's office. Additional charges are pending, the release said, which specified that Defazio has not been convicted on any of the charges.
Kearns said the arrest was "an excellent example of agencies pooling resources in a coordinated effort" which resulted in the successful apprehension of an individual allegedly responsible for numerous burglaries.
He said numerous law enforcement agencies were involved, including those from Bernards, Hillsborough, Clinton Township, Branchburg, Readington Township and the New Jersey state police.
"We remind residents to continue to be vigilant. If anyone sees anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, notify police immediately," Kearns added.