MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A New York City Transit Authority electrician pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing a bucket truck and going on a rampage of destruction on Long Island last summer.
Joel Grasman, 52, pleaded guilty before Nassau County Judge Anthony Paradiso to felony criminal possession of stolen property, and misdemeanor criminal mischief and criminal tampering. He will be sentenced on May 13.
“Over the course of a few hours, this defendant stole valuable equipment from his employer and wreaked havoc on several neighborhoods unlucky enough to be in his path,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a news release. “My office will continue our efforts to hold this defendant accountable for the destruction he caused.”
Grasman, a “light maintainer” and a 23-year employee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was accused of breaking into one of the MTA facilities in Queens the dead of night, and stealing equipment with the intent of selling the goods on the black market to pay off an IRS debt.
Authorities said Grasman stole $50,000 worth of generators and welding equipment, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
When he couldn’t fit the equipment into his car, investigators said he jammed the items into a Mack truck and took off.
Grasman then drove the truck 20 blocks through the streets of Elmont with the boom raised at 4 a.m. on Aug. 27 of last year, police said. He slammed into telephone poles, traffic signals, utility wires, and trees.
Grasman caused interruptions to Long Island Power Authority, Verizon, and Optimum service in the area and caused over $500,000 in damage to utility lines, homes and cars, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office said. Some 6,000 local customers lost power.
Grasman first claimed it was all a practical joke and said he was driving the stolen Mack truck to his brother’s in Elmont.
But a short time later, Grasman issued a written confession, explaining that he broke into the MTA facility and stole the equipment with the intent of selling the goods on the black market to pay off an IRS debt.
In the signed statement, Grasman went through each step, explaining his actions.
“I walked up to the gate and used my key to unlock the padlock. I opened the gate and I walked up to the building in the yard. There is an electrical box on the outside of the building. I disabled the electricity to the yard which causes all the lights to go off and the security camera’s [sted] to shut down,” Grasman wrote in his confession letter.
Grasman is expected to receive a sentence of one to three years in prison, as well as restitution to utility companies, homeowners, and car owners, prosecutors said.
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