NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Mauro Zonzini, up until recently a Director of the New Rochelle Police Foundation and Vice President of the New Rochelle Police Advisory Board, was arrested by Rye Police on September 5, 2008 for impersonating a police officer and illegal possession of two loaded handguns.
Criminal charges were later dropped in Rye City Court. Zonzini plead guilty to a traffic violation and paid a small fine. In 2009, Zonzini's pistol permit license was later revoked as a result of the incident. He was ordered to surrender his firearms by a Westchester County Judge.
Zonzini, a long-time New Rochelle-based contractor with clients including the City of New Rochelle, the New Rochelle Board of Education and the City of Mount Vernon, has categorically denied the account of events contained in Rye PD and Westchester County records.
A review of records from Rye, NY and Westchester County, however, paint a very different picture from the one presented by Zonzini in a Notice of Claim filed with the City of Rye and in a lengthy interview with Talk of the Sound.
These records indicate that Zonzini made a number of conflicting statements to the Rye Police Department, the City of Rye and a Westchester County Judge.
According to Rye Police, they were engaged in a city-wide mobilization investigating a possible burglary around midnight on September 4th and 5th. This mobilization included ground forces from the Rye Police Department and aviation surveillance by the Westchester County Police Department.
Rye Police say Zonzini was stopped by Rye Police Officer Joseph Cancel on Route 1 near Hornidge Road as he was riding his motorcycle shortly after midnight on September 5, 2008.
Zonzini was observed from a helicopter by Westchester County Police Officer Chris Lieberman, the pilot, who reported observing a "male on a motorcycle driving erratically on Hornidge Road" for approximately 15 minutes.
In his Notice of Claim against the City of Rye, Zonzini stated the incident occurred around 9:20 p.m., not around midnight as stated by the Rye police department. Zonzini said he was opposite his home at 325 Hornidge Road which he described as "a private residence located on a dead end street".
Zonzini claimed that "while operating his motor scooter and checking for an unknown noise on his scooter", he was nearly struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, endangering him.
This account differs from Zonzini's recent account in which he said he was in his own driveway the entire time and was not driving his motorcycle at all in the period prior to his arrest.
Zonzini said he was out that night in his driveway because he was getting ready to drive to New Rochelle. Zonzini said that for the past 20 years his routine has been to go to his office six nights a week around seven-thirty until eleven-thirty to do paperwork before heading home. He says he was out all day, came home, went out to dinner, used the bathroom and then went to get on his motorcycle to go to the office.
After Zonzini was arrested, Rye police say he told them he was on his way home from having dinner at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck. Zonzini recently said both that he was coming from dinner with Police Commissioner Carroll and from having dinner with friends of his wife.
Zonzini then contradicted his own statement to Rye police stating.
"I am just driving around 'cause I saw the helicopters," the Rye PD incident report states.
Zonzini denied riding on his motorcycle or doing so without a helmet in a recent interview.
"They came up with a story that a helicopter was following me," said Zonzini. That "I was racing down Boston Post Road with no helmet on."
"I have been riding a motorcycle since I was 14-years old," said Zonzini. "I've never gotten on a motorcycle without a helmet."
Zonzini has uploaded videos to YouTube in which he can be seen riding a motorcycle without a helmet.
"Riding Fools" uploaded by Mauro Zonzini:
"Mauro Gets Lost on His Harley" uploaded by Mauro Zonzini:
Zonzini says he never got on his motorcycle, that he was sitting on the ground, next to it, polishing the chrome on the motorcycle when officers first approached him.
"I was in my driveway," said Zonzini. "I wasn't wearing a helmet. The helmet was on the ground."
Later in the same interview, Zonzini stated that the motorcycle was "technically" on City property and that he "sat on it to move it, it was 12 feet from the curb."
In New York State, lanes on traveled roads are typically 11-12 feet wide, so a road with two lanes, one lane going in each direction, would be between 22 and 24 feet wide.
A motorcycle 12 feet from the side of the road on a two lane road such as Hornidge Avenue would be in the middle of the road, not in a driveway of a house on Hornidge Avenue.
The portion of Hornidge Avenue in front of Zonzini's house at 325 Hornidge Avenue is on the borderline between Rye and Mamaroneck. A person in Zonzini's driveway would be in Mamaroneck. The Rye Neck High School, at the end of Hornidge Road is in Rye, NY so a person driving a motorcycle back and forth in the area of Hornidge Road might variously be in Rye and Mamaroneck, and at or near Rye Neck High School and Route 1 at either end of the road.
Zonzini says his motorcycle was impounded and towed to Harrison because Rye Police refused to allow him to move the motorcycle into his driveway suggesting that he was not working on his motorcycle in his driveway as previously claimed.
In a recent interview with Talk of the Sound, Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll said Zonzini was riding around on his motorcycle in front of his house when he was spotted by police who thought he was one of the burglars or robbers they were looking for so they descended on him and surrounded him.
Carroll said Zonzini was driving around on his motorcycle because he had been listening to a police scanner, heard the call and went to assist the Rye Police Department in searching for the burglar.
In other words, Carroll is acknowledging that Zonzini armed himself while carrying a New Rochelle Police Foundation Shield and a City of New Rochelle ID Card with a New Rochelle Police Department insignia on it and then, effectively, deputized himself to engage in an armed pursuit of two Rye Police suspects during an active police mobilization without informing anyone, including Rye Police.
Zonzini disputed Carroll's account.
"That is absurd," said Zonzini. "I am surprised he would tell you that."
"I don't believe that he told you that. He was with me when this happened. We were out to dinner 20 minutes before that."
"I even called him from the prison. When I was put in the cell I called him. I said 'Can you believe what's going on?'"
Zonzini bristled at the suggestion that he was the sort of person who would listen to a police scanner.
"I never owned a scanner. I never owned one. I never had an interest to sit there and listen to what police have to say."
I'm not a police buff. I'm not a cop buff. I've been not that at all throughout my life. That's hurtful to hear that. You're describing a personality…"
"I know people that do that, drive around with a blue light on their car, run around with red lights on their car. I don't do that. They live with scanners on their side. Yeah, I know what kind of person you're describing. I'm not like that at all. In fact, I hate those guys that ride around thinking who the hell they are, that's ridiculous what some of these guys do."
Zonzini repeatedly insisted that he was working on his motorcycle in his driveway and that police fabricated multiple, false justifications for approaching him that night.
Zonzini says that he believes the WCPD aviation unit observed him from their air working in his driveway under a tree using thermal imaging technology and reported a person under a tree to Rye police.
"They said there was a male hiding under a tree, from the infrared, they saw me under the tree."
Zonzini says there was a tree in his front yard, since cut down, and that police responded to the helicopter reporting a male hiding under a tree. He says Rye police later changed the report to a male riding a motorcycle without a helmet on Boston Post Road then changed it to a male riding up and down Hornidge Road.
None of the police records obtained by Talk of the Sound mention a report of person under a tree.
Satellite photos of Zonzini's property show a tree that neither covers the ends of his circular driveway that connects to Hornidge Avenue nor any part of Hornidge Avenue.
In the Notice of Claim, Zonzini claimed the vehicle that nearly hit him was later determined to be an unmarked police car, owned by the City of Rye, and driven by a plainclothes police officer of the Rye Police Department.
In a recent interview, Zonzini was asked how he was nearly hit by a police car while he was in his driveway.
He said the entire event happened at the curbside of his driveway in front of his house and not Boston Post Road.
"They were flying up and down my street, two of them went up and down my street at a high rate of speed," said Zonzini.
Zonzini says he did not know what they were doing. He said there was a helicopter flying overhead, that he looked up, but did not think anything of it.
"I don't know what they were doing," said Zonzini. "These guys were driving around doing 70 miles per hour on my block and I'm sitting in my driveway…we were probably 15 feet away from each other."
Zonzini claims he was cursed at by an officer who demanded that he produce his driver's license soon after which Zonzini says he was "falsely accused of impersonating a police officer" because he had in his possession a "Director New Rochelle Police Foundation" badge.
"Those cops were so jacked up that night when they pulled up in front of my house," said Zonzini in a recent interview. "They looked like they had blood comin' out of their frickin' teeth."
Zonzini was annoyed because, he says, the Rye Police would not answer any of his questions. In this version of events, Zonzini says it was during this exchange that he first learned of the city-wide mobilization.
"They wouldn't answer any of my questions," said Zonzini. "Then I found out there was a manhunt. I had nothing to do with a manhunt."
This account conflicts with the Rye PD Incident Report, the statement made by Police Commissioner Carroll and his own account in the Notice of Claim he filed with the City of Rye.
Zonzini does not explain in his Notice of Claim how events proceeded from the moment when he says an undercover police officer nearly struck him while passing by at a high rate of speed on a dead end street in an unmarked police car to the point where he is cursed at by the officer.
Still another account is that Zonzini was driving on his motorcycle when he was passed by what later turned out to be an unmarked police vehicle driven by an undercover police officer. In this account, Zonzini pursued the car on his motorcycle at which point he was stopped by the police officer and questioned, sources say.
In all versions of the story, there is agreement that Zonzini was questioned by a Rye police officer at which point it become known that Zonzini was armed and that matters escalated rapidly from there.
While frisking Zonzini after he was stopped for questioning, Rye police recovered a fully-loaded .38 caliber 85CH Taurus revolver in his right leg pocket and a fully-loaded .22 caliber FT-22 Taurus pistol in a holster on his right side hip.
The 85CH Taurus and the FT-22 Taurus were confiscated by the Rye Police Department at the time of his arrest, according to Rye Court records.
Both weapons are semi-automatic handguns and have a combined capacity of 15 rounds. According to the Taurus web site, the 85CH Taurus holds 5 rounds and the FT-22 Taurus has a capacity of 8 rounds plus one in the chamber.
Zonzini purchased a .38 caliber Beretta 84F on May 24, 1994. He purchased the chrome .38 caliber 85CH Taurus revolver, the .22 caliber FT-22 Taurus pistol and a .22 caliber Beretta M-21 on May 31, 1996.
On September 5, 2008, Zonzini was arraigned in Rye Court and charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, a Class C Violent Felony. That charge was later reduced, then dropped altogether.
On September 8, 2008, Rye Police Detectives referred the matter to County Attorney Charlene Indelicato. On the same day, Zonzini delivered the Beretta 84F and Beretta M-21 to the New Rochelle Police Department for safekeeping, according to New Rochelle Police Department records.
On September 26, 2008, the Westchester County Court signed an Order to Show Cause brought by Indelicato as to why an order should not be made canceling and revoking Mauro Zonzini's pistol permit license, Number 59876.
Zonzini recently stated that he lost his pistol permit license because he failed to update his address when he moved from New Rochelle to Mamaroneck in 2006.
"That's what Charlene Indelicato hung it on", said Zonzini, suggesting that his pistol permit was revoked because he failed to report his new address to the County.
In fact, Indelicato's office argued that Zonzini had exhibited a "reckless disregard for the safety of others and seriously called into question his fitness and character to hold a pistol license." The County Attorney argued that Zonzini knowingly placed himself in the midst of a city-wide police mobilization, a manhunt, armed with two loaded firearms.
That Zonzini failed to update his address was one of several ancillary points raised in the County Court proceeding to revoke his license and in no way central to the case presented by the County Attorney.
Indelicato is familiar with New Rochelle and the people in the City government and people who do business with the City. Prior to her appointment as County Attorney, she had previously served as New Rochelle City Manager, Corporation Counsel for the City of New Rochelle and board member of the New Rochelle Industrial Development Agency.
On February 9, 2009 County Court Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen accepted Indelicato's arguments and ordered the revocation of Zonzini's pistol permit license. Cohen directed that Zonzini surrender all firearms listed on his license.
In his Notice of Claim, Zonzini claims he was "searched and frisked" and found to be in possession of two handguns.
In response to a "Show Cause" order filed in County Court by the County Attorney's office on September 25, 2008, Zonzini claimed that he had "fully cooperated with the Police during the arrest".
In a filing in County Court on February 3, 2009, the County Attorney's office described Zonzini's arrest and the moments leading up to it as follows:
While the police investigated his identity, the respondent advised one of the officers that he had two loaded guns on his person. The respondent also produced a valid license for the weapons limited to target, hunting and employment.
Zonzini claims he was denied food, medical attention, access to his medication and access to counsel yet Zonzini also says he told police shortly that he had just eaten a full meal at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck.
Rye Police records state that Zonzini's attorney, Andrew J. Maggio responded to Rye Police Headquarters after Zonzini was arrested but before he was arraigned or between 12:40 p.m. and 9 a.m. on September 5, 2008.
Rye PD and County Court records indicate that when questioned with regard to his pistol permit, Zonzini stated that he was not hunting or at target practice and that he was not en route to either activity. According to police reports, when an officer asked whether he was working, the respondent indicated that he is "on call" 24-hours per day, and then ultimately, that he was not working at that time.
Zonzini claimed during the Order to Show Cause hearing that he was "on call" 24-hours per day under a contract with the City of Mount Vernon and in the event of a pipe breaking in New Rochelle.
"I did prove I as on 24-hour call with the contracts," said Zonzini recently.
"The contracts say I have to respond in 2 hours to any municipality that's in trouble. I took those papers to court with me."
Despite these claims, the only contract submitted to the court by his attorney was a contract between Zonzini's company and the City of Mount Vernon. Maggio did not submit a contract for New Rochelle or any other client.
The contract does not state Zonzini is "on call" 24-hours per day but only that Zonzini is required to respond to a request for emergency services within one hour and have equipment on-scene within 4 hours. Further, the The Mount Vernon contract was dated July 29, 2008 or well after Zonzini obtained his pistol permit and he never applied for a full Concealed Carry permit.
In effect, Zonzini was arguing that because he might get a phone call that required him to respond with an hour to a request for services, his employment pistol permit was effectively a full carry permit, a claim rejected by Judge Cohen.
Under New York State Law, a pistol permit holder is required to notify the licensing authority of a change of address within 10 days. Zonzini pistol permit indicated a home address of 12 Glen Place in New Rochelle, NY. At the time of his arrest, Zonzini resided at 325 Hornidge Road while his New York State Driver's License indicated an address of 466 North Avenue, the business address for his company.
Zonzini obtained his employment pistol permit by claiming that he needed to carry his weapon for employment purposes because he cashes payroll checks for employees, carries cash from deposits from certain jobs, occasionally purchases materials with cash, makes cash bank deposits. and engages in other cash transactions "during the day". At the time he was arrested, Zonzini did not claim he was carrying cash in connection with his business, and no cash was inventoried on the police report.
This article is the fourth in a series.
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