The owner of Chair 6 restaurant in Lake Placid is facing a felony charge for allegedly possessing $1,300 in cash that was reported stolen by one of his customers.
His attorney says the charge is "outrageous" and claims police "don't have a shred of evidence" to back it up.
Village police arrested Charles D. Levitz, 60, of Lake Placid, at 10:20 a.m. on June 12 and charged him with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
Police Sgt. Chuck Dobson said the arrest stems from an investigation of a complaint police received on June 2 from a woman who apparently left her purse in the restaurant. When she got it back, $1,300 in cash and a bottle of prescription medication that had been in the purse were missing.
Following a roughly 10-day investigation, police arrested Levitz after they determined he was in possession of the cash and the medication, Dobson said. He didn't reveal how police reached that conclusion.
"Those are details of the case that will come out in court," the sergeant said.
The money has not been recovered, Dobson added.
Reached by phone at the restaurant June 19, Levitz declined to comment and referred the newspaper to his attorney, Ronald Briggs of Lake Placid.
"It's the most outrageous charge I've seen in the years that I've been in this county," said Briggs, a former Essex County district attorney. "There's not a shred of evidence that Charlie Levitz possessed stolen property."
Briggs said one of Levitz's staff members found the woman's purse in the restaurant the day after she was there. Among other things, Briggs said the purse contained a sealed envelope "which had words on it that indicated money," and some medication. Levitz looked through the purse to try to find its owner's name and contact information. When he did, Briggs said Levitz and the restaurant's staff tried to contact her several ways, over the phone and by sending her a Facebook message.
"They used all their best efforts to locate the owner of the purse," Briggs said. "Failing that, (Levitz) took it to the police station and told them what happened. He gave them a number of names of staff members who were present when they opened the purse to try to locate the owner."
Between the time when the purse was found and when it was turned in to police, a period Briggs said was "a tight window," the attorney said it was placed in a storage area outside a bathroom in the restaurant. That's when the envelope with the money and the medication apparently went missing, he said.
"The room was accessible to the public and all of his staff. It was not locked," Briggs said. "Someone did take it, but to suggest that he's the one who removed it or took possession of it - there's not a shred of evidence of that. It's a completely frivolous charge."
Briggs claims police didn't talk to any of Levitz's staff before charging him, but Dobson said the department conducted "numerous interviews," including of Levitz's employees. Dobson confirmed that Levitz was the one who turned in the purse to police, but he again refused to say how police know Levitz was in possession of the missing money and medication.
After his arrest, Levitz was processed and released on an appearance ticket. Dobson said Levitz is scheduled to be arraigned in village court at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 25.