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Canton ATM theft suspect still at large, possibly in Florida

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CANTON — Two months after he allegedly helped steal an automated teller machine stuffed with cash from St. Lawrence University’s Brewer Bookstore, Canton police believe Joseph C. Lugo may be living life on the lam in the Sunshine State.

“If he had wanted to turn himself in, he certainly has had ample time,” Interim Canton Police Chief Victor N. Rycroft said of Mr. Lugo, who is wanted for third-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal mischief in connection with the Nov. 17 incident.

Instead, investigation has led police to suspect Mr. Lugo fled to Florida, where he remains a moving target.

In the early hours of an autumn Saturday, Mr. Lugo, 24, and a second suspect, Brandon D. Crandall, 21, allegedly entered the bookstore vestibule at 92 Park St., wrenching the 265-pound North Country Savings Bank ATM from the floor and severing its cables before hauling the machine out the front door and driving off in a pickup truck. The electronic cash dispenser was no small haul, physically or financially: it had been loaded with $35,000 in $20 bills not long before the theft.

The first break in the case came within a matter of days.

Investigators were questioning Mr. Crandall, of 31 Main St., Canton, in an unrelated drug case when he revealed information about the bank machine heist. His arrest on Nov. 21 led police to the battered and empty ATM in a field off Sykes Road. Its front door was scorched in spots and warped from being pried open after the lock was removed.

Investigators recovered $17,600 in cash with the arrest of Mr. Crandall, as well as 1 pound of marijuana and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.

Police believe Mr. Lugo may have the rest of the money. They also believe he may have been armed, and may have fled the area on a motorcycle.

That’s where the trail grows murky.

Investigation has revealed that Mr. Lugo may not have any family in Florida “that we know of,” Mr. Rycroft said. “But I’m sure he has been there before,” the interim chief added, suggesting that Mr. Lugo may have had some acquaintances in the state.

Canton police have been in touch with Florida police agencies, particularly on that state’s east coast, Mr. Rycroft said.

What police do know is that Mr. Lugo has a criminal history, which includes a previous long-distance flight from justice.

In April 2007, Mr. Lugo was listed as a DeKalb Junction resident when he took part in the burglary of a home on Old Northerner Road.

He was arrested in Colorado in June 2007 and brought back to St. Lawrence County, pleading guilty on July 23. That September, he was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation for third-degree burglary in connection with the theft of a safe and other items.

Before the year was out, Mr. Lugo was in trouble again. He violated his probation by driving without a license on Dec. 16, 2007, to which he admitted in an April 2008 proceeding.

Mr. Crandall, meanwhile, was arraigned before Pierrepont Town Justice Robert Camp the night of his November arrest on charges of felony criminal mischief and grand larceny, and released to the supervision of the St. Lawrence County Probation Department for a later court appearance. Records showed he had not appeared before County Court in connection with the case as of Wednesday.

Anyone with information about Mr. Lugo’s whereabouts is asked to call Canton Police at 386-4561.

“We’re still chasing him around Florida,” Mr. Rycroft said Wednesday. “We have nothing hard and fast.”

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