Hoboken PD warns of utility worker scams after off-duty officer makes arrest at his home


The Hoboken Police Department is warning residents of utility worker scams after an off-duty officer made an arrest at his own home.

Photo courtesy of the City of Hoboken.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We are thankful for Officer James Barbro’s quick thinking and swift action, even on his time off, to prevent this suspect from potentially taking advantage of his neighbors,” Police Chief Steven Aguiar said in a statement.

“This can serve as a reminder to our residents, and business owners to be vigilant and be on the look-out for potential scams involving fake utility workers.”

On Thursday, May 4th, Barbro was off duty in when when someone rang his doorbell, claiming to be from FedEx. The officer buzzed the man, later identified as Mattew Van Putten, 26, of Brooklyn, New York, into the building.

Moments later, Barbro found Van Putten knocking on other apartment doors asking residents about their energy bills.

The off-duty officer told him he was not allowed in the building and was trespassing, to which the suspect responded with an expletive and kept knocking on other doors.

When the officer called police dispatch to inform them of what was going on, Van Putten shoved him and tried to leave, becoming combative and resisting arrest.

At one point, the two wrestled to the ground, and Van Putten, while being told he was under arrest, grabbed the officer by the throat.

Uniformed officers arrived, handcuffed Van Putten, and took him to headquarters where he was processed and charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, criminal trespass, and obstruction.

He was issued a summons and released and the officer was treated for his injuries. Van Putten was previously arrested on April 25 in Hoboken for a similar incident, in which he threatened a homeowner after he was asked to leave.

In that case, Van Putten was charged with making terroristic threats.

The Hoboken Police Department advises that utility workers almost never need to be inside your home, so if someone comes to your door and you have not been contacted in advance do not let them in.

Employees of legitimate utility companies must carry an official company identification and present it when asked. If the ID does not appear legitimate, call the company to verify.

In Hoboken, police dispatch can be reached at (201) 420-2100 to confirm whether a vendor has checked-in to work in the city, as they are suggested to do.

If a resident suspects a utility worker is a fraud and/or potentially dangerous, they should ask them to wait while they close their door, lock it, and call the Hoboken PD at (201) 420-2100.

Residents should refrain from engaging or calling them out as fake, as this could put them in further danger.

These scams often target senior citizens, so residents should make sure their elderly loved ones are aware of this type of crime, what to watch out for, and how to respond.

And in the event someone feels they are in immediate danger, they should not hesitate to call 911.

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