DA: Homeless men arraigned in theft of fire chief's vehicle

From left to right: Raymond Peruggi and Corey

From left to right: Raymond Peruggi and Corey Smith, both of Center Moriches, were charged with third-degree grand larceny after they allegedly stole a fire chief's car, Suffolk County police said. (Jan. 27, 2014) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Two homeless men accused of stealing the East Moriches fire chief's marked vehicle pleaded not guilty Thursday to grand larceny, the Suffolk district attorney's office said.

Raymond Peruggi and Corey Smith, both 23, took the Chevrolet Tahoe from the Center Moriches firehouse Jan. 26 and led police on a chase before crashing in a snowbank in Eastport, authorities said.

They were indicted on third-degree grand larceny and petty larceny. Peruggi was also indicted on charges of unlawful fleeing a police officer, reckless driving, speeding and other traffic infractions.

District Attorney Thomas Spota said Peruggi was discharged from an upstate prison Jan. 15 after 3 years for possessing stolen property.

At the request of Peruggi's attorney, Steve Burton of Ronkonkoma, a judge on March 10 will hear whether Peruggi should go into the judicial diversion program, which offers drug and alcohol treatment as an alternative to jail after a guilty plea to the top charge.

"Two homeless guys and it's freezing out and the car's running -- it was joy riding," Burton said.

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Smith's attorney could not be reached.

Both men remained held on bail.

Peruggi told police they bought beer, felt cold walking along Montauk Highway and wanted some place warm to "party," said Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Spota.

Police said the Tahoe belonged to Chief Bryan Kelly and the keys were inside when it was stolen about 1 a.m. outside the Center Moriches firehouse.

They went to McDonald's, drove all night and put $10 of gas into the Tahoe, Clifford said. Seven hours after the theft, a Mount Sinai fire truck passed them in Rocky Point, authorities said, and soon, a police car was behind the pair.

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