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Riverhead man’s disappearance remains mystery five months later


A disagreement between a recent Riverhead High School graduate and his parents has led to a nearly five-month mystery over the man’s whereabouts.

John Arif was last seen in Riverhead in late July and has not been heard from since, according to a missing persons report and Riverhead Town police. The 21-year-old, who graduated in June, is not believed to be in danger and no foul play is suspected, according to Riverhead Det. Patrick Waski. Still, police have been unable to contact Mr. Arif for confirmation ever since his father first expressed concern about his son’s disappearance.

“He’s pretty much shut down,” Mr. Waski said. “He’s not communicating with anybody.”

Based on the minimal information police have obtained, Mr. Arif is believed to be in New York City, the detective said.

“He left after some family disagreements,” he said. “The problem is no one has heard from him and he’s not making any contact with family.”

Mr. Arif’s profile has been listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System since Oct. 2. During his last conversation with his mother, on July 23, he told her that he was in the Times Square area, according to the missing persons report. He was last seen on Railroad Avenue. His father, Mohammed Arif, owns Moonlight Classic Limo, a taxi service in Riverhead.

Mr. Waski said the family has friends with businesses in the city and have their own network in an attempt to locate Mr. Arif. He said he believes the father is currently out of the country.

“It’s upsetting to the family that he’s done this,” he said. “They just want to know he’s OK. All I can tell them is I believe he’s in the area. He’s given some signs of being around, but not committing 100 percent through contacting anyone.”

Mr. Arif’s mother, Stacie Lehrfeld, created a GoFundMe page in August in an attempt to hire a private investigator. Ms. Lehrfeld’s address on the page was listed as Sharon, Pa. The page has since been taken down.

Mr. Arif is listed as being between 5-foot-8 and 6-feet tall and weighing between 225 and 250 pounds. He had run away once before in 2014, when he was 18. In that instance, Mr. Waski said, he went into the city and came home after a few days by taking a taxi. Before her son returned, his mother posted a YouTube video on Aug. 23, 2014, seeking the public’s help in finding him.

Since Mr. Arif is 21 and not a minor, Mr. Waski said they’re keeping the case open and hoping he makes contact to assure authorities he is OK. Mr. Arif’s most recent publicly visible post on his Facebook page was an updated profile picture on Nov. 15, 2015.

Attempts by this newspaper to reach Mr. Arif’s parents were unsuccessful.

“Hopefully it can come to a reasonable conclusion that he’ll contact someone and they’ll contact us and say he’s fine and that’ll be the end of it,” Mr. Waski said.

A case manager listed on Mr. Arif’s Missing Persons Database profile said the publicly viewable information is all they’re authorized to release and referred questions to the investigating agency, the Riverhead Police Department.

Anyone with information on Mr. Arif’s whereabouts can call Riverhead police at 631-727-4500 or the Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 1-800-346-3543. Leads can also be emailed to [email protected].

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