Riverside police say a panhandler charged with taking an unlocked bicycle from in front of Riverside Foods, 48. E. Burlington St., on March 23 is responsible for stealing at least six bicycles, perhaps more, in the village.

Michael Wiltzius, 46, of Riverside, was taken into custody by Forest View police on March 29 as he begged for loose change at Harlem Avenue and I-55. The officers recognized him as the man pictured on a “wanted” bulletin that Riverside had issued to surrounding police agencies.

On March 23 about 7:20 p.m., Wiltzius reportedly took a silver Trek road bike worth $500 from in front of Riverside Foods while its owner was inside the store for a few minutes.

Police viewing the store’s surveillance camera video recognized Wiltzius from prior contacts and the fact that his residence was just two blocks away. Lyons police recovered the stolen bike prior to the arrest.

“Michael Wiltzius was stealing bikes in Riverside daily,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release. “He never takes them by force but would steal those left unlocked, use them for a day, then discard them after he was done riding to various areas to beg for money.”

Wiltzius was so intoxicated when he was arrested, said Weitzel, that he defecated in the booking room, prompting Riverside police to call a professional cleaning company to disinfect the room.

Weitzel said the bill for the cleanup will be sent to Wiltzius. 

Scam costs Brookfielder $1,400

A 21-year-old Brookfield woman called police on March 27 to report that she’d been the victim of a scam that ended up costing her $1,400.

According to the police report, the victim used a cellphone app called Sitter City to locate a babysitting job. In 2017, someone named “Sarah” from California contacted her, but nothing ever materialized from that contact.

In February, “Sarah” contacted the woman again and made arrangements for a job in Chicago. “Sarah” told the victim she would send a check for $1,850 and that the victim should deposit it into her bank account. The check arrived and was deposited on March 19, police said.

“Sarah” then instructed the victim to take $1,400 from the check and wire the money to someone named “Mike Smith” from a Walmart in Countryside to a Walmart in Chicago. “Mike Smith,” the victim was told, was going to use the money to buy supplies for the family once they got to town.

Believing Sarah’s “check” had cleared, the victim did as instructed. Later, her bank notified her that the $1,850 check was fraudulent.

Criminal trespass to vehicle

North Riverside police on March 24, charged an 18-year-old Chicago man with criminal trespass to a vehicle after officers observed him in a parking lot near the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, behind the wheel of a 2017 Hyundai Elantra that had been reported stolen out of Cicero in late February.

According to police, an officer on patrol saw three people exit the vehicle, which had heavy front-end damage, in the mall’s overflow lot about 5:15 p.m. After running the license plate and learning it was stolen on Feb. 26, police kept surveillance on the vehicle.

At 5:25 p.m., the 18-year-old entered the driver’s side door and pulled out of the parking space. He was detained while officers searched for the other two people inside the mall without success.

The man arrested by police said his friends picked him up in the car, which they drove to North Riverside Park Mall to shop. Denied entry to the mall because he didn’t have an ID to prove he was over the age of 17, the man said his friend gave him the keys to the car and said they’d call him when they were done shopping. The man told police he didn’t know the vehicle was stolen.

The owner of the stolen vehicle told police it had been taken from in front of his residence after he left it unlocked with the keys in the ignition as he waited for it to warm up.

Hit and run

Brookfield police cited a 33-year-old Chicago resident for improper lane usage and leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly sideswiping a parked car with his work van in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard on March 28 about 8:45 p.m.

Police located the van and driver in a nearby alley. A passenger in the van reportedly told police the driver wasn’t paying attention while driving.

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, March 24-April 1, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.

— Compiled by Bob Uphues