FLOWER HILL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A heartless prank left a young man with a broken heart on Long Island, after his wheelchair was stolen from his home.
The wheelchair has since been found. Nassau police said it was located by a neighbor in the bushes over the weekend and was returned on Tuesday.
Two 14-year-old boys also have been charged after stealing the motorized wheelchair from a home under renovation in the Flower Hill section of Roslyn at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Facebook posts led to their arrests, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
The boys rode the $17,000 chair around the neighborhood until the battery died and then abandoned it, police said.
Before the wheelchair was located, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan spoke with burglary victim Vinny Pinello and his mother.
“It’s making me upset,” he said. “Last night when I went to bed, I started crying.”
Pinello was filled with anguish, his independence snatched away with the prank.
“They’re cruel,” said Vinny’s mother, Carmela Pinello. “They broke into my home and took my son’s wheelchair. It’s an expensive wheelchair. That’s how he lives.”
The boys were neighbors from the villages of Flower Hill and East Hills. They bragged on Facebook about breaking into the Pinello family home, which is under renovation to make it handicapped-accessible, police said.
On a dare, they removed plywood to gain entrance, CBS 2 was told.
When they spotted the top-of-the-line wheelchair, they rode off into the night.
“They took that wheelchair, they rode it around the neighborhood for half an hour until it ran out of battery power, and abandoned it,” said Nassau County Police Inspector Kenneth Lack.
The teens, who will be arraigned in Family Court, reportedly told police that after the joy ride, they shoved the heavy chair and its battery into the bushes a half mile from Vinny’s home.
Meanwhile, when the wheelchair was returned Tuesday night, its handlebar was broken, but it had not been trashed, Carmela Pinello told 1010 WINS.
“My neighbor called the police department, and told the detectives that they saw my son’s power wheelchair in their garage, because somebody was trying to steal it from the street where the kids dropped it,” Carmela Pinello said. “The detectives called me to go pick up the wheelchair.”
Since the wheelchair is broken, it is not safe for Vinny to ride right now, Pinello said. She added that there was medication with the wheelchair that is still missing.
Vinny is a graduate of Roslyn High School who now works at United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County. Without the wheelchair, he has no way to perform the simple tasks of steering himself to the restroom or the bedroom, and has to rely on others to move him around in a broken, obsolete manual wheelchair.
The Pinellos said the custom-fit Quantum 600 Power Base wheelchair was so specialized to Vinny that it would have taken at least six months to duplicate.
“My son had nine surgeries and that chair was specially made for him,” Pinello told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “They left my son stranded. They should be ashamed of themselves and realize that you don’t play with somebody’s life and think it’s a joke, because it’s not a joke.”
The teens have been charged with third-degree burglary and third-degree grand larceny.
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