CLIFFSIDE PARK, New Jersey (WABC) — One man’s brand new BMW X5 went missing after it was stolen from a valet a few weeks ago at the Villa Amalfi restaurant in Cliffside Park.
“I was like, oh my friends are probably playing a joke on me, like, you know, knowing how much I love my car,” said Joe Mazzocchi, “and then I started to realize he went inside to get the manager. The manager came out and that’s when I knew it was real.”
Exclusive police body cam video shows officers interviewing the valet who noticed the car – and then the keys – were missing after briefly leaving them unattended to use the bathroom.
Officers also looked for surveillance video – with no luck.
This is not the first time a car has been stolen from the same valet. In fact, a restaurant employee tells Eyewitness News that is has happened at least three times in the past year and a half or so, and other upscale restaurants in Paramus and Edgewater have been hit up.
“95 percent of those cars were destined to West Africa,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Steve Sapp.
Sapp says that is likely where Mazzocchi’s BMW was headed. Stolen from Bergen County, winding up more than 300 miles south at the Port of Baltimore in a shipping container – on Thursday morning it was seen still at the port.
“This is sort of like a revenue stream for transnational criminal organizations. They’re trying to create money whatever way they can and the business model they use is stealing cars, especially newer models, and then immediately shipping them out of the United States,” added Sapp.
It has been a long problem at the Port of Newark, which is now cracking down, leading criminals to head south.
In 2021, the Baltimore field office seized 95 cars – last year it skyrocketed to 239.
“I guess that was a very expensive meal,” said Mazzocchi.
Mazzocchi is still waiting on Geico to either retrieve the car – or even better – cut him a check.
“At this point, I don’t even know if I want it back,” he said.
In the meantime, law enforcement suggests putting an air tag in your car – somewhere thieves can’t find.
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