Restaurant Umbrella Swipe Allegedly 'Social Experiment'
Despite receiving promise the table umbrella would be returned, Basking Ridge restaurant manager says he's still one short for his outdoor patio.
A Liberty Corner restaurant manager said Wednesday he's still waiting to get a large table umbrella back that had been taken last week from the eatery's outdoor patio, despite a Piscataway pair's promise to return it.
Nick Berisha, the manager of Focacceria, said he found a handwritten note signed by "Angela" that said the umbrella, one of nine at the restaurant's outdoor tables, would be returned later as part of an experiment on "doing the right thing." The umbrellas had been left outdoors on the eatery's patio alongside Church Street.
Bernards Township Police said they received a similar story.
According to a township police report, a township resident notified the department on the morning of July 14 that he saw a clean-shaven man take the umbrella at about 6 a.m. that day.
According to the resident, police said, the man and a woman described as being in her 50s, had just stopped off to deliver morning newspapers to Krauszer's Food Store on the other side of Church Street.
The resident saw the man remove the umbrella, and place in it the van before driving away, township police said. The resident noted the van's license plate, and then followed the vehicles to Riverwalk, where it stopped, police said.
The witness was able to confirm the plate number, according to police. It was also noted that one of Focacceria's nine patio umbrellas was no longer there.
Police waiting next day
Township police said they were waiting at Krauszer's the next morning when the van pulled up at about the same time on the morning of July 15. Police said Angela Massey, 45, of Piscataway, dropped off newspapers before she was approached by police.
According to police, Massey told them she was in the midst of doing a documentary on "doing the right thing," and showed them a manila folder with writing that she said was part of the project. Massey told officers she would return the umbrella later, police said.
Township police said Massey then directed them to the man who was believed to have taken the umbrella the previous morning and brought them to the Dunkin' Donuts at the Lyons Mall.
Police then said Branden Smith, 22, also of Piscataway, confirmed Massey's story, and said the removal of the umbrella had been her idea. Smith told police Massey was "doing a social experiment," Police Lt. Stephen Elder said.
According to the police report, Smith said the umbrella had been returned, but police said they went back to Focacceria, where they counted eight umbrellas, one short.
Both were charged with theft
Elder said Smith and Massey were each charged with theft, a disorderly persons offense. He said township Patrol Officer Gina Loschiavo handled the case, assisted by Sgt. Scott Ward.
Contacted by Patch on Tuesday, Berisha said he had discovered a handwritten letter signed by "Angela" that he believed had been dropped off earlier. He said the letter was signed "Have a blessed day."
Berisha said he had then called a phone number on the note, seeking the return of the umbrella. But on Wednesday, he said he had not heard back either from the note writer or from township police regarding the umbrella's status.