Pizzeria owner impersonated officer

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The teenage pizzeria owner who called deputies a month ago to report a burglary was arrested and jailed in Manatee County for allegedly pretending to be a police officer and pulling over a motorist.

Eric A. Upton, 18, owner of the now-closed Leoni’s Pizzeria was arrested by Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies on one count of falsely impersonating an officer, according to Charlotte and Manatee county officials.

Upton was driving a blue Jeep Grand Cherokee in Bradenton at around 8 p.m. Monday. He turned on a red, white and blue strobe light on his dashboard and pulled over a motorist, said the Manatee County Sheriff’s report.

The victim who was pulled over thought that he ran a stop sign was the reason for being pulled over. Upton yelled at the victim to take his keys and throw them on the ground.

The article said: “The victim started thinking that this was a little excessive for running a stop sign, and he started to get a bad feeling,” the report said.

The victim drove away and called in the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s license plate and called the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies spotted the SUV at a gas station.

The article said: Upton “admitted using small LED strobe lights to pull over a vehicle,” the report said. “He advised he was just playing and he thought it was fun.”

Upton was booked into the Manatee County Jail on charges of impersonating a police officer and driving without a valid license. He left the jail Tuesday morning after posting $1,500 bond, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s spokesman.

The article said: Lt. Ron Chandler of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the Upton arrested by Manatee County officials is the same one who filed the burglary report last month. Both sheriffs’ offices list the same date of birth for Upton, as well.

On Wednesday, there was a sign outside Leoni’s that said the business was closed for remodeling but inside there was food all over the floor. A small safe sat on top of a beverage cooler behind the business. A safe was at the center of the burglary report Upton filed on Jan. 16. Upton called Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies around 11 p.m and said that he found the back room ransacked.

The article said: “Mr. Upton advised someone opened his safe and stole $3,000 to $3,500 in cash bills from inside the safe. He stated nothing else was missing,” the report stated. “Mr. Upton further advised the safe was closed and locked when he left the night before, suggesting the suspect(s) knew the password to the safe.”

Chandler said the burglary at Leoni’s Pizzeria does not appear to be connected to other business burglaries in the area.

The article said: “We’re looking into this for suspicious circumstances,” Chandler said.