"I couldn't believe it," said the 22-year police veteran. "It's really unusual for something like this to drop in your lap." Hueber was certain that if he followed the car, he would catch a thief, he said.
He tailed the car patiently for about an hour as it moved slowly up and down residential streets in Tacony. At one point, the Chevy pulled over outside an apartment building in the 6300 block of Keystone Street.
"I thought he was casing the apartment building," the officer said.
But after five minutes, the car took off again and headed west on Princeton Avenue, north on I-95 and east on Woodhaven Road to the Woodhaven Mall in Bensalem Township, Hueber said.
Before arriving at the mall, the driver stopped at a nearby fast-food restaurant, giving Hueber time to call police for help, he said.
At the mall parking lot, Hueber was met by three Bensalem police officers who used their cruisers to surround the Chevy. Hueber and the other officers
went into the mall looking for the driver.
At a food concession stand, they arrested Thomas Lardini, 24, of the 1500 block of Hewson Street in Fishtown, as he was eating a hot dog and drinking a soda, Hueber said. Lardini did not offer any resistance.
He was taken to the Bensalem police, who charged him with possession of a stolen auto tag, and then was transferred to the Northeast detectives for questioning in connection with two burglaries, one Sept. 20 and the other Sept. 23.
He was charged in both burglaries, said Northeast Detective John McDermott, who is investigating the case.
In each case, the victims were able to provide police with a description of the suspect and car and also a license-plate number, McDermott said. The information was repeatedly broadcast over police radio and read at roll calls in the Seventh District.
As a result of further investigation by McDermott, Lardini was charged Oct. 4 with six additional burglaries, the detective said.
All the burglaries, McDermott said, were committed at apartment buildings and houses in the Bustleton-Somerton area and near the Northeast Airport at Grant Avenue and Academy Road.
In each case, the detective said, entry was gained by removing the screen of a ground-level window. Videocassette recorders, televisions, cash and jewelry, with a total value of about $10,000, were taken, McDermott said.
According to McDermott, Lardini admitted to committing all eight burglaries and said he used the money he got from selling the items to buy drugs.
A hearing on the charges scheduled for last week was continued until Oct. 30 in Room 116 at City Hall. Lardini was released after signing for his own bail, set at $3,500.