PARAMUS, NJ – Maria-Eleni Eleftheriadou, a 23 year-old Greek citizen claimed she was shot in the chest when walking in the parking lot of the Westfield Garden State Plaza shopping mall on December 31.
Eleftheriadou reported to Paramus, NJ police that she was walking with her fiancé and his cousin at 5:15 PM on New Year’s Eve.
Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said that the story was a fabrication.
“They were never at the mall,” Ehrenberg told the Bergen Record. “The shooting happened somewhere else and they blamed the mall.”
Eleftheriadou was shot with a small caliber weapon, but Ehrenberg said that they do not know the identity of the person responsible and that the police department is investigating.
“Eleftheriadou, of Acharavi Corfu in Greece, told police she was walking east in a lot between Legal Seafood and Macy’s with her two companions when she noticed a small wound where she was struck. No one in her group heard gunfire or saw anything suspicious, police said. Detectives worked throughout New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses but numerous inconsistencies began to develop in the case, Ehrenberg said,” according to the Record
Ehrenberg said that when the group pressed by officials at Hackensack University Medical Center, where they took her for treatment, about how she sustained her injury, the group made up the story.
“Detectives had worked throughout New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses…Numerous inconsistencies began to develop in the case between the report and the evidence collected,” Ehrenberg told the patch.
The Chief said “Here’s the concern of the case…After the shooting of Nov. 4 at the mall and the Short Hills mall case, for them to make a claim like this, it had to be investigated very seriously. It potentially affects all of the malls.”
Two days later detectives went to a Ridgefield address given to police by Eleftheriadou, but by then she and her fiancé had taken an overnight flight to Greece.
George Mihalakis, 35, of Ridgefield, a cousin of the fiance, provided the information, to police, who later confirmed it with customs officials.
Mihalakis was released without bail. The Paramus Patch reported that “Mihalkis was charged with filing a false police report and released without bail. Charges against Eleftheriadou and her fiance are pending and will be served upon a return to the United States.”
Anyone with information about the case should call the Paramus Police Department at 201-262-3400, ext. 553.