As Cleveland police try to figure out who did a string of armed robberies while pretending to be police officers, the arrest of a man has shed more light on one of the crimes.
In this case, the victim was not chosen at random. Police say he went to the scene because he thought he was going to buy cell phones.
On March 28, the victim, who was 24 years old, set up a meeting in the North Shore Collinwood neighborhood with a person who said he sold cell phones. Shortly after he got there, a car with flashing police lights closed in on him. The police say that one man pointed a gun at him and another stole his car.
Officials with the Cuyahoga County sheriff’s office and court records say that 27-year-old Alfonzo Neal of Cleveland Heights was arrested later that day on charges that were not related. Six days after he was caught, on Monday, he was charged with aggravated robbery in the police impersonation case in Cleveland Municipal Court.
Neal is being held in jail on a $100,000 bond. In the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, he is being tried for other crimes, like an aggravated robbery in Cleveland Heights from last year. In April, he paid the bond in that case.
The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com tried to get a comment from Neal’s lawyer.
In the police impersonation case, the victim showed up on Lakeshore Boulevard around 9:30 a.m., where they had agreed to meet. He later told police that he usually bought and sold phones through people he knew, and in this case, he knew the supposed seller through the same person.
The victim got out of his Jeep Cherokee and climbed into the backseat of the seller’s car. The seller was wearing a mask. The police say that Neal, another man, was in the passenger seat. The victim told police that he noticed there were no cell phones for sale in the car and that made him think something was wrong.
Neal was Arrested
When another Jeep Cherokee with flashing lights pulled up behind them, the victim thought it was a police car and said the seller was trying to set him up for an arrest. A police report says that the seller then pointed a gun at him, which made him run away.
He dropped his keys as he ran away. Prosecutors say Neal grabbed them and took off in the victim’s Jeep.
Later that day, Neal was arrested on charges of drug trafficking, receiving stolen property, tampering with evidence, and having a gun while he was disabled. It’s not clear if the time of his arrest was related to the carjacking or if it was just a coincidence.
Between March 7 and April 2, there were five times when people pretending to be police used flashing lights to rob or try to rob motorists at gunpoint.
On Tuesday, police caught a man who was driving a Dodge Durango that looked like one of the cars used in the robberies where people pretended to be police. Police say that man, whose name has not been released, will be charged with burglary because he locked himself in a house during a chase before being caught.
The fake-cop robbery plan is thought to involve four men, according to the police.
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