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Trial of DeKalb man charged with ATM theft pits alleged associates against one another.


CANTON — It was the first time Brandon D. Crandall and Joseph C. Lugo had seen each other since the theft of an ATM last November from St. Lawrence University’s Brewer Bookstore to which Mr. Crandall has confessed and Mr. Lugo has pleaded not guilty.

Testimony began Friday in St. Lawrence County in the trial of Mr. Lugo, 24, of DeKalb, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the Nov. 17 theft in which more than $35,000 was pried from the North County Savings Bank automated teller machine.

Mr. Crandall, 22, of Canton, testifying against his alleged associate, said he hadn’t seen Mr. Lugo since the Sunday following the theft.

Recounting the midnight heist, Mr. Crandall told Assistant District Attorney Andrew T. Botts that Mr. Lugo had an internship with North Country Savings Bank, servicing its ATMs, which familiarized him with the machines.

Mr. Crandall acknowledged that no one forced him to participate in the crime by taking his father’s truck to the rear entrance of the bookstore that night, prying the machine free and using a torch and pry bar to get to the money out at his father’s machine shop; but, he claimed, Mr. Lugo was responsible for covert aspects of the plan.

“It was his idea to change our clothes,” Mr. Crandall said. “When we got back to the machine shop we changed back into our street clothes and burned the clothes we wore during the crime in a furnace/wood stove,” Mr. Crandall said.

Burning the clothing and driving on the outskirts of town to avoid being caught on police camera were part of the plan concocted by Mr. Lugo, the witness told Mr. Botts.

Mr. Lugo’s attorney, Mary E. Rain, said this wasn’t Mr. Crandall’s only involvement in crime.

Members of the St. Lawrence County Drug Task Force had visited Mr. Crandall’s apartment at 31 Main St. the Sunday following the theft and upon interviewing Mr. Crandall, uncovered approximately one pound of marijuana and some paraphernalia.

Investigator Christopher Flint, who also took the stand on Friday, said the Drug Task Force had received information from another law enforcement agency that Mr. Crandall was involved in drug trafficking. Interviewed at the Canton police station, he confessed to the ATM theft and took police to the swampy area behind his father’s machine shop off Sykes Road where the scorched and dented remains of the ATM were stashed, empty of cash.

Mr. Botts wheeled into court the ATM, its inside cash boxes busted open; the pry bar used to crack open the machine, and Mr. Crandall’s share of the cash, which was stored in a gallon-size plastic freezer bag.

Ms. Rain asked Mr. Crandall if the “sweet deal” he received might be enough reason for him to lie about Mr. Lugo’s role.

Mr. Crandall pleaded guilty to felony third-degree grand larceny and tampering with physical evidence on July 15 as a part of a plea bargain. He was placed on one year of interim probation, and if he completes the probation successfully, those felonies will be vacated and he will be given an opportunity to plead guilty to misdemeanors and be placed on three years’ probation.

In addition, Ms. Rain said, that deal, which also required Mr. Crandall to testify against Mr. Lugo, his friend and roommate for a short time, would rid Mr. Crandall of his pending drug charges.

“I hated to talk about Joe, but I was in a bad position and had to help myself out,” Mr. Crandall testified. “Directly after my arrest I harbored resentment toward him, but I could have said no and not done it.”

A friend of the two men, Jacob Rakitis, testified about seeing the two parked in the village, and said Mr. Lugo told him that if he promised not to tell anyone, he would be given $1,000.

Testimony is scheduled to continue at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

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