ONLY ON CVP: The nearly six-figure combined value of five watches stolen from his home weren’t what bugged Old Tappan businessman Michael LoRusso most about the crime: It’s the fact that no arrests were made despite what he insisted was more than enough evidence.
So LoRusso ( top, left ) turned to Richard “Bo” Dietl, the ex-NYPD detective, author and media star whose private security agency takes on some of the most vexing crimes for corporations and individuals.
Soon after, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office obtained an indictment in Hackensack charging three people — one of them a former girlfriend of LoRusso’s son — with the thefts.
All three defendants have two weeks to reach plea deals with prosecutors or go to trial. Superior Court Judge Patrick Roma set the date late last month after a plea deal fell through.
That it has all played out the way it has angers LoRusso.
“The quantity and quality of evidence should not have been ignored,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Something’s not right here.”
Old Tappan Police Chief Thomas M. Shine told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that the prosecutor’s office instructed him “not to provide any information on this case.”
“All inquiries should be directed there,” he said.
The BCPO wasn’t commenting, however.
LoRusso, who operates his own environmental abatement business, went to police after he discovered two Cartiers, a Rolex, and two Breitlings missing on April 26 of last year.
Although the watches were valued are more than $100,000, LoRusso said he used the $79,000 total cost as the amount in the theft report. A cross, chain and bracelet worth were nearly $3,500 themselves were also taken, he said.
LoRusso had plenty of suspicions from the beginning, some of which later turned into what Dietl said is solid evidence.
For one thing, his son had dated one of the three defendants, Erin McHugh of Harrington Park, LoRusso said.
LoRusso’s industry had experienced a rash of safe burglaries, so he had a camera system installed at his house. The trouble was: It wasn’t working. And only a select group of people knew it, he said.
Major renovation work that LoRusso said he had done on his yard — involving dozens of laborers — was completed the day before the burglary, he said.
Yet few people knew about the watches or where he’d kept the secret key to the house, LoRusso said.
After he called police, he said, an officer suggested that LoRusso’s son text McHugh:
“Do you know what happened at my house?”
She said she didn’t and asked whther it involved watches, LoRusso said.
She then mentioned co-defendant Steven Diebner of Old Tappan, he said.
McHugh went to police and later entered rehab, LoRusso said. However, he said he saw photos of her partying on a social network soon after, raising questions.
The case also began to stall, so LoRusso called Dietl ( top, right ), the founder and CEO of Beau Dietl & Associates and Beau Dietl Consulting Services.
As part of the investigation, LoRusso’s son was given a lie detector test for 2½ hours.
“I allowed for the possibility that my kid was involved, but he clearly wasn’t,” LoRusso said. “Once that happened, it was time to move on.”
Dietl took LoRusso to area jewelers who might have bought any of the hot watches. They quickly found a dealer who refused to buy but identified the third defendant, Brian Corriston of Norwood, LoRusso said.
Corriston’s uncle had been LoRusso’s corporate attorney, so he said he called him. He asked him to talk with his brother — Brian’s father, attorney Kevin Corriston.
Attention soon turned to Diebner and the Nanuet Jewelry Exchange on Route 59.
Diebner was arrested on May 26, 2013 after an $11,000 watch sold there was tied to him. Clarkstown police conferred with LoRusso and Dietl. A Rockland County grand jury later returned an indictment charging Diebner with having and selling stolen property.
At that point, it was time to meet with Bergen County authorities, LoRusso said.
“Bo produced a package with dates, times, reports, you name it,” he said.
Dietl also had anecdotal evidence.
Sometime before the burglary, while LoRusso’s son was still dating McHugh, LoRusso’s wife said she came home and found her in the hallway.
“When my wife asked her how she got in, she said she used the secret key because they were doing at her house and she needed to sleep,” LoRusso said.
Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Natalie Candela obtained the grand jury indictment in Hackensack. It alleges that McHugh broke into the victim’s Leonard Drive home and took the watches, some of which Diebner and Corriston then sold to merchants in Closter and Paramus.
Corriston and McHugh remain free without bail.
Diebner, meanwhile, was being held on $75,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail in connection with the April 30, 2013 burglary and theft of more than $75,000 worth of stolen jewelry from a Lakeview Drive home.
LoRusso got two of his watches back from a Paramus jeweler on Route 4. A Breitland remains in evidence with Rockland authorities.
The two other watches remain unaccounted for.
“I’ve spent in excess of $160,000 bringing this to justice. Why? It’s simple,” LoRusso told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “It’s not like I have some kind of vendetta. I’m not going after someone for no reason.
“It’s criminality. They robbed my house.”
PHOTOS: Courtesy MICHAEL LoRUSSO