Three arrested in Linden when victim calls 9-1-1 after distraction burglary

LINDEN — On Thursday, Dec. 5, at 1:17 p.m. Linden police responded to a residence on the 200 block of W. Munsell Ave. on a 9-1-1 call of a burglary.

Officers were told that a white pickup truck was fleeing the scene with the suspects. Responding officers observed the pickup truck heading south on S. Wood Ave. The pickup truck ran a red light and attempted to flee northbound on Routes 1&9 but was forced to a halt due to heavy traffic. Officers were then able to stop and detain the occupants.

Meanwhile, the victim, an 88-year-old woman, told other officers that she had just arrived home when her doorbell rang. A man at the door told her he was from the city and because they were working on water problems in the neighborhood, he needed to come in her house to see if her water was clear or brown.

The man showed the victim some type of identification card and was allowed into the house. She went into the kitchen with the man, who turned on her faucet, and she was then told to go to the bathroom to flush the toilet. While walking to the bathroom, she observed a second man walk out of her bedroom.

She then confronted the first suspect and asked him what was going on. He told her “nothing” and both men quickly left the house. The victim then dialed 9-1-1 and was able to get a description of the truck and relay the information to dispatchers.

A further check of her bedroom found it to be ransacked and jewelry items were missing. The victim was brought to the scene of the stop and identified the two male occupants. Officers also found her jewelry bag with items in the vehicle.

The two men and one woman occupant were arrested and all were charged with conspiracy, burglary, and theft. Vito Yonko, 25, Ephrahim Todd Eli, 24, both of Newark, and Nancy Eli, 26, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are being held on bail at the Union County Jail pending a court date on Dec. 13.

Bail for Yonko was set at $75,000, Ephrahim Eli’s bail is $50,000, and Nancy Eli’s bail is set at $35,000. Nancy Eli was also charged with unlawful possession of prescription drugs, and Yonko was charged with driving with a suspended license and disregarding a red traffic signal.

The investigation is continuing by the Detective Bureau, who believe that the alleged trio is part of a larger transient-criminal group who prey on elderly victims throughout the state and beyond.