A suspected shoplifter and purse snatcher -- who fled police through downtown Millburn earlier this month -- was arrested Wednesday in a joint investigation between police in Millburn and Toms River.
Maurice Cohen, 51, of Northfield, NJ, faces multiple charges, including eluding police, theft, robbery, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting, police said.
Cohen is a suspect in a spree of thefts from stores and purse snatching -- one that ended with a senior citizen in Toms River being dragged by the car in a grocery parking lot-- in both Essex and Ocean counties, police said. In Millburn, he in a stolen car when police tried to stop him for shoplifting. The car was later recovered near Cohen’s home in Northfield.
“This arrest was based on great investigative performance and solid teamwork,” said Michael Palardy, Millburn’s acting captain, in a press release sent to the media on Thursday afternoon.
According to Millburn police, the crime spree began on Dec. 14 at Nordstorm’s when Cohen grabbed four leather jackets valued at $1,544 and ran from the store around 2 p.m.
Nordstrom’s security was able to provide Millburn police with both a description of the suspect and vehicle, a burgundy Toyota Tercel. About 20 minutes later, in downtown Millburn, Officer Glenn Ostlund attempted to stop what was believed to be the getaway car at the corner of Millburn Avenue and Lackawanna Place.
The driver made a U-turn and drove off at a high rate of speed and went down Millburn Avenue in the wrong direction towards Main Street, according to police reports that day. Directing traffic on a normal traffic post was Officer Collin McMillan.
McMillan, realizing the dangers to the pedestrians, cleared the intersection, drew his gun and pointed at the renegade driver, police said. The driver aimed his vehicle directly toward McMillan and at the last second veered off onto Main Street southbound.
Officers did not pursue the vehicle and the suspect left the area, according to the information released on Thursday.
Later that evening, police say Cohen returned to The Mall at Short Hills, where he allegedly tried to snatch a woman’s purse. The victim reported she was walking to her vehicle about 8 p.m. when a red-and-orange sedan came towards her and a man reached out and grabbed her purse. The two had a brief struggle and the suspect left without the purse. Nordstrom’s security cameras were able to confirm that the suspect vehicle was the same vehicle that was used in the earlier shoplifting incident, according to the Millburn police press release.
Five days later, on Dec. 19, a second report of a purse snatching at The Mall at Short Hills around 7:50 p.m. matched the description of the suspect, police said.
Also on Dec. 19, police said Cohen snatched a purse outside a Stop & Shop in Toms River – where awas dragged by the suspect’s vehicle in the process.
On Wednesday, Dec. 28, the Millburn Police Department along with Atlantic County Emergency Response Team members, Northfield Police Department, Toms River Police Department, and the FBI Safe Streets Taskforce executed a warrant for the arrest of Cohen, who lives in the 500 block of Pincus Avenue, Northfield, police said.
Following the arrest, a search warrant was executed at his residence. Police recovered a number of items that fit the description of items stolen from victims at the Mall at Short Hills and were retained as evidence, Millburn police said in the press release.
Cohen was turned over to Toms River Police Department for processing and additional charging. Further investigation and criminal charges are pending. He is being held at the Ocean County Jail pending $320,000.00 bail, police said.