DA: Electrician admits stealing crane truck, knocking down utility wires

Joel Grasman, 52, of Elmont, pleaded guilty in

Joel Grasman, 52, of Elmont, pleaded guilty in Nassau County Court to second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a felony, and two misdemeanors, fourth-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal tampering. (Credit: Howard Schnapp, Newsday J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

An electrician who left a mile-long stretch of destruction as he drove through Elmont in a crane truck pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing the vehicle from the MTA rail yard where he worked, prosecutors said.

Joel Grasman, 52, of Elmont, pleaded guilty in Nassau County Court to second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a felony, and two misdemeanors, fourth-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal tampering. He is expected to get 1 to 3 years in prison and be ordered to pay restitution to utility companies, homeowners and car owners, when he is sentenced May 13, the Nassau district attorney's office said.

An IRS notice saying he owed $10,000 sent Grasman into a panic, spurring him to snatch tools from his job to pay the debt before taking the 33-ton truck on a destructive ride, according to court papers.


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His attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In the predawn hours of Aug. 27, Grasman stole welding equipment from the Metropolitan Transportation Agency's Jamaica facility and put them into one of the agency's 33-ton crane trucks.

As Grasman, a 23-year MTA employee, swept through Elmont and Valley Stream, the truck snagged and pulled down utility wires and traffic signals.

"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," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. "My office will continue our efforts to hold this defendant accountable for the destruction he caused."

Grasman's spree interrupted service from LIPA, Verizon and Cablevision, and caused more than $500,000 worth of damage to utility lines, homes and cars, prosecutors said.

He was arrested later that day by Nassau police after abandoning the truck on the entrance ramp of the Southern State Parkway at Exit 15 in Valley Stream.

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