LAKE?PLACID - Police have charged a 19-year-old student from the Mountain Lake Academy home for troubled youth with stealing state Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Ted Blazer's car.
Police are not releasing the name of the male suspect, who's from Melville on Long Island, because they say he may be eligible for youthful offender status. He was arrested at 10:40 a.m. Saturday and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and third-degree unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
His arrest came less than 24 hours after Blazer reported to police that his green, two-door 1972 MG convertible had been stolen from where he parked it in front of the Olympic Center box office Friday morning.
"I came out around 3:30 or so to do an errand, and my car was gone," he said.
Blazer said he scratched his head for a few minutes and then asked some of his co-workers, "Hey, where'd you put my car?" before realizing it must have been stolen. He then contacted the Lake Placid Police Department.
It was found undamaged around 6 p.m. that day parked on Interlaken Avenue after police received a tip.
Village Police Chief Bill Moore said the department posted a notice on its Facebook page with a description of the stolen car. Local attorney Brian Barrett also posted it on his Facebook page, and one of his Facebook friends supplied police with a tip that led to the department locating the car, Moore said.
"Social media works," the chief said.
Lake Placid police Sgt. Chuck Dobson said the teenager was located based on descriptions provided by eyewitnesses who saw someone driving the vehicle on Main Street.
After interviewing the young man, police discovered he had walked away from the children's residence earlier that day and gone to the box office to try and buy a ticket out of town on a Trailways bus. Instead, police say, he saw Blazer's car sitting there with the keys still in it, hopped in and drove away.
"A crime of opportunity - that's what it appears to be," Dobson said.
But the teen didn't get far before deciding to abandon the MG.
"It appears that his original intention was to leave town with the vehicle, but between the condition of the vehicle and how much gas was in it, he decided it wouldn't be a good idea," Dobson said.
Blazer said Friday he left the key in the ignition because it's difficult to get it in and out.
"There's always things breaking down on it," Blazer said. "The gas gauge doesn't work, the temperature gauge doesn't work, the clutch is tough. It's an old car, and you have to know what you're doing to drive it. When (the thief) saw that a lot of the things didn't work in it, he probably ditched it."
The teenager returned to the scene of the crime, the Olympic Center area, on Saturday morning. Dobson said he was again planning to buy a bus ticket at the box office when he was spotted by police and taken into custody.
He was processed, arraigned in village court and remanded to the Essex County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail.
"The police department took charge, and they're a real professional unit," Blazer said. "I'm grateful to them."