It was the height of the truck’s front license plate that first made the officer suspicious.Now, the driver is facing criminal and motor vehicle charges, accused of tampering with his plates to beat the toll at the George Washington Bridge.Port Authority Police Officer Steve Pisciotta was pulling bridge duty Monday morning at 8:50 a.m., when he spotted a tractor trailer approaching the toll plaza with its New Jersey license plate mounted unusually high up on the front-end, said Al Della Fave, a PAPD spokesman. Pisciotta knew what most toll road cops do, Della Fave said: toll cheats mount their plates up high in the belief that cameras intended to catch them will be aimed too low.So Pisciotta looked closer, and sure enough, Della Fave said, there was something not quite right about the number 8. Turned out it was really a 6, doctored with black electrician’s tape, Della Fave said. And the back plate wasn’t any better, with the last character completely covered in black grease, Della Fave added.
The driver, Wiston Montas-Alejos, 25, of Paterson, continued through the toll booth, which Pisciotta saw flash a non-payment signal before he flashed Montas-Alejos a signal to pull over.
Montas-Alejos was eventually charged with criminal tampering and theft of services, as well as motor vehicle violations including altering his front and rear plates, failure to produce a valid insurance ID, and having a cracked windshield. Montas-Alejos could not be reached.It was several minutes after being pulled over and having his license and registration checked that the driver was confronted by the officer with the accusation that he had tampered with the 6 on his front plate, and only after the driver had wandered out to the front of his truck unaccompanied by the officer, Della Fave said.
In response to the accusation, the driver denied he had altered the 6, and invited the officer to see for himself. Sure enough, there was the 6, without the piece of tape that had changed it to an 8.
What the driver hadn’t counted on, Della Fave said, was that the officer, like many of his brothers in blue, was carrying a cell phone camera, and had taken a picture of the doctored plate before the driver could strip off the offending piece of tape.Della Fave said the fraudulent plate number – with an 8 instead of a 6 – turned out to be a real number that belonged to another truck. And, he said, the owner of that other truck had previously received a bill from the Port Authority for an unpaid toll — apparently after the Montas-Alejos had done the same thing.
“That’s another reason the Port Authority has zero tolerance for these kinds of toll cheats,” Della Fave said. “Usually, they’re not just victimizing the P.A. When you change a character there’s a good chance it’s going to come back to somebody else.”