ROXBURY, NJ – A serial criminal, who convinced a 78-year-old Kenvil woman to give him more than $30,000 for roof repairs she didn’t get, was arrested last week by Roxbury police following a dramatic foot chase, police said.
The man, Sonny Stanley, 43, of Gutenberg, was charged with obstruction of the administration of law, resisting arrest and theft by deception, police said. Stanley has a long list of prior convictions for similar con-man behavior and was reportedly described by a burglary task force as a member of a band of "Gypsy Travelers."
The events leading up to Stanley’s arrest began Sept. 26 when Stanley approached the woman at her house, police said. Stanley claimed he noticed the woman’s roof “had various issues and much of wood … was rotting and new sealant would have to be used to prevent water from leaking inside,” said police, in a statement.
They said Stanley told the woman he would fix her roof for $20,000 and he told her to go to her bank and withdraw the funds, noting he would wait for her to return, police said. They said the woman came back with $11,000 and gave the cash to Stanley.
The next day, Stanley returned to the house and told the woman to take out an additional $9,000, police said. “Stanley provided her a verbal list of all the work already performed on her roof,” they said. “He then informed the victim that the other side of her roof needed repair and would require an additional $30,000.”
A week later, Stanley paid the woman another visit and demanded she give him an extra $11,500, police said. The woman complied, “and Stanley advised her he would be back for the rest,” said the statement. “It was at this point the victim decided to contact the police.”
According to police, the woman told Roxbury Police Patrolman John Fitzgerald that “she did not want to keep paying Stanley money, especially since he did not do any work to her roof.” They said the patrolman told the woman to keep her door locked and to call police if Stanley made another appearance at her house.
It took nine days for that to happen, police said. When it did, police found Stanley at the woman’s door, they said.
“Corporal (Eric) Henriksen was first on scene … Stanley immediately took off and fled on foot,” said police. They said Henriksen ordered Stanley to stop, but Stanley kept running towards the rear of the house.
“Stanley jumped over a fence, Corporal Henriksen followed and was able to apprehend him and place him under arrest,” police said. “Other officers responding directly to the scene were Patrolman Fitzgerald, Sergeant (Sean) Hefferon, Sergeant (Steve) Curtiss, Patrolman (Devin) Kellar, Patrolman (Matthew) Hill, Patrolman (Matt) Smedberg, Patrolman (Brian) Feeney and Patrolman (Jonathon) Edmunds,” said the statement.
Roxbury Police Patrolman (Silvio) Valdes took a look at the woman’s roof and “confirmed no work had been done … and there was no rotting areas or leaks.”
Police said the woman told Fitzgerald “she was intimidated by Stanley” and said that was part of the reason she felt compelled to pay him.
Stanley is no stranger to law enforcement. Although this was his first arrest in Morris County, he has a long rap sheet, said Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Spokesman Fred Snowflack. “His first offense dates back to 1997 in Hudson County,” Snowflack said. “Along with the Roxbury arrest, he has at least seven other arrests throughout the state for various things including forgery, assault, robbery, theft and burglary. Apparently, he’s submitted different birthdates … and he’s used different names too.”
Stanley was one of 12 people prosecuted by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office for racketeering and crimes like the roof scam in Roxbury. The state said Stanley and his cohorts are part of a criminal gang that targets the elderly for theft by deception and other crimes. A task force affidavit related to the matter characterized the group as a band of "Gypsy Travelers," according to news reports at the time.
Roxbury police are asking the public to be cautious.
*We all have parents and grandparents, so when we see a person taking serious advantage of someone that could be our grandmother, you can bet it didn’t sit well with us,” police said. “Please share this story with the elderly members of your family or elderly neighbors.”
Police warned residents to not open their doors or give money if people posing as contractors approach them. “Call the police department immediately,” they said. “One of our officers will respond to your house to determine if work is really needed and if the contractor is legitimate.”