A Florida man called in more than a dozen New Jersey restaurants and placed large ordered who he claimed were for local police departments, but he never paid for or picked up the food.
The South Brunswick Township Police Department said the scheme costs the businesses several thousand dollars.
Sudeep Khetani, 34, called pizzerias and restaurants in three New Jersey counties. During a press release, authorities said, “each time he indicated he would pick up the order or it was intended for local police.”
"In several of the follow-up calls the pizzerias made to the phone number that placed the order, Khetani would make statements about Italians and wished they would be affected with the coronavirus," police said.
Authorizes said Khetani used a voice override service to mask his real phone numbers, but detectives were able to identify him.
Police believe Khetani is currently in the Orlando, Florida area, where he is on probation for selling fake Disney World tickets.
“It is incomprehensible that a suspect would play on the goodwill of so many during these difficult times," South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said in a statement. "We have had several residents send us food, which I appreciate tremendously, but this suspect has gone to a new low."
“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," he said.
Khetani has been charged with theft, and authorities are considering whether the crimes could also be biased in nature or constitute cyber harassment.