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Lyndhurst Police Chase Down Accused Church Donation Box Thief

Michael R. Gardi
Michael R. Gardi Photo Credit: IMAGES: Courtesy LYNDHURST PD

LYNDHURST, N.J. -- Surveillance video led Lyndhurst police to an East Rutherford man who they said emptied five donation boxes in a local church.

Michael R. Gardi, 34, was ordered held without bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with burglary, theft, eluding, criminal mischief and possession of seven hypodermic needles, among other offenses, Capt. John Valente said Wednesday.

A property manager told officers who responded Tuesday to St. Michael's Church on Ridge Road that various boxes throughout the church were forced open and emptied sometime in the previous day or so.

Detective Ronald Guirland reviewed surveillance video that showed Gardi entering the vestibule at 11:50 a.m. Monday, Valente said.

Police believe he "went to the second level choir balcony, where he remained for over 3 hours until appearing again on video forcing entry through the locked entry doors from the vestibule into the church," the captain said.

"He remained inside of the church for approximately 20 minutes during which time he forced open the 5 donation boxes," Valente said.

Guirland and Lt. John Fata were headed east on Valley Brook Avenue in the area of Grant Avenue on Wednesday when they spotted Gardi on a bicycle.

They immediately turned around and found the bike in front of the Rite-Aid Pharmacy on Valley Brook Avenue.

Gardi, seeing them, ran out an emergency door and ran through the shopping plaza before the officers caught him inside the Game Stop store headed toward another emergency exit, Valente said.

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