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Fair Lawn Police Captain Cracks Months-Old Cell Tower Battery Thefts

Fair Lawn police
Fair Lawn police Photo Credit: Boyd A. Loving

FAIR LAWN, N.J. – Thanks to a Fair Lawn police captain, one of two CVS shoplifters caught in the act was also charged with swiping four cellphone tower batteries several months ago, authorities said.

Hawthorne couple Michael Wright, 41, and Nicole Paletta, 36 -were carrying nearly $50 worth of items taken from the River Road pharmacy when police arrested them a short time later.

Paletta was released pending a court hearing.

Wright, however, was held, after Capt. Joseph Dawicki identified him as the burglar who took the batteries from a Saddle River Road tower last Dec. 19.

Wright, who was charged with burglary, theft, trespassing and criminal mischief, also had arrest warrants out of Passaic County and Butler.

He was sent to the Bergen County Jail, only to have a judge order his release the next day.

Copper theft has been more common for a much longer time, but backup cell tower batteries – used by the carriers during power outages -- aren’t exactly new targets.

Thefts have been reported in Pennsylvania, Texas and California, among other states, as well as in towns in both Bergen and Passaic counties.

Bought as scrap at anywhere from a quarter to a dollar per pound -- for the lead inside -- the batteries can produce a few thousand dollars in quick cash for thieves, authorities say. Each weighs about 40 pounds.

Last year, a Mahwah police detective cracked the theft of more than a ton and a half of backup batteries from cell towers in town with the arrest of a Wood-Ridge ex-con with a long criminal history.


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