Florida man ripped off struggling N.J. pizzerias with fake orders for first responders: cops
Sudeep Khetani, 34, is accused of scamming more than a dozen New Jersey restaurants. (South Brunswick Township Police Department)(South Brunswick Township Police Department)
A Florida man’s cruel coronavirus scam will cost thousands of dollars to more than a dozen New Jersey pizzerias and restaurants from which he placed bogus food orders while claiming they were for local police officers, authorities said.
Sudeep Khetani, 34, never paid for or picked up any of the orders during his month-long scheme, which targeted struggling businesses in at least three New Jersey counties, the South Brunswick Township Police Department said in a news release.
The scammer, who was arrested in the Orlando area last week, would also “make statements about Italians” and “wished they would be afflicted with the coronavirus” during several follow-up phone calls to his number, according to the release.
Khetani was charged with theft, but police said they’re investigating whether his actions were “biased in nature,” which could result in cyber harassment charges.
Authorities said he indicated in each phone call that the large orders he placed would be donated to local police departments. The victims apparently believed him because many businesses and residents across the country have done exactly that to thank first responders for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have had several residents send us food, which I appreciate tremendously, but this suspect has gone to a new low,” said Raymond Hayducka, the police chief in South Brunswick Township. “Our businesses are all struggling and every dollar matters. I will not tolerate someone trying to take advantage of our community in these difficult days.”
Khetani, who was on probation for selling fake Disney World tickets, used a voice override service to mask his real phone number, but New Jersey detectives were still able to find his identity and track him down in Florida.
Besides South Brunswick, he’s accused of targeting businesses in Montgomery, Plainsboro and West Windsor, police said.
“It is incomprehensible that a suspect would play on the goodwill of so many during these difficult times,” Hayducka said in the news release.
“I will pursue the strongest of charges and make sure our businesses get their money back,” he added.