A truck driver from Westbury was arrested Thursday after a Port Authority police officer saw him use a retractable license plate to avoid paying a toll at the Goethals Bridge, authorities said.

Eric Marc Bonhommer, 33, of 1041 Prospect Ave., was charged with theft of service and tampering with evidence after his arrest at about 1 p.m., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement Friday.

A Port Authority spokesman said the retractable plate was operated by a 12-foot string that was "threaded through a rubber tube that snaked through the truck body to the driver's compartment in the area of the steering column."

Police said that during the investigation after a traffic stop at the bridge's Staten Island toll booth, Bonhommer admitted he "had pulled the plate up to avoid the toll."

Police said that PA Police Officer Ed Benenati saw the 1997 Freightliner truck driven by Bonhommer as it passed through the bridge toll -- and watched "the front license plate swing up behind the truck's bumper in an apparent attempt to avoid the toll."

Benenati then followed the truck in his cruiser, initiated a traffic stop and determined that the plate was attached to a string and a hinge that "was used to flip the plate up from the driver's compartment."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Police said that during the inspection, Bonhommer tampered with the evidence by "removing the string from the device, destroying the elaborate contraption." He also "made statements" that he pulled the plate because he didn't know the balance of his E-ZPass account, police said.

The truck, which police said belonged to a relative of Bonhommer's, was impounded.

The investigation is continuing, police said.

Bonhommer pleaded not guilty during his arraignment at Staten Island Criminal Court, was released on his own recognizance and given a June 17 court date. He was represented by The Legal Aid Society, but his attorney was not immediately available.

With Ellen Yan