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Alleged ATM thief told police he was on journey

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CANTON — Joseph C. Lugo told Louisiana police he was on a journey.

His face sunburned and his blonde hair burnished from weeks under southern skies, the second suspect in a Nov. 17 ATM heist at St. Lawrence University’s Brewer Bookstore quietly surrendered to police outside a restaurant in Abbeville, La. on Monday afternoon.

“I think he may have had a motorcycle at some point in there,” Maj. Darryl LeBlanc of the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office said, adding that the 24-year-old DeKalb resident either lost or crashed the bike before reportedly making his way from Florida to Louisiana on foot.

And while the story of Mr. Lugo’s odyssey over nearly three months has yet to be fully revealed, interim Canton Police Chief Victor N. Rycroft also said officials aren’t sure whether he has any of the money left from the stolen North Country Savings Bank automated teller machine, “but we don’t think so.”

“I think the only things he had were the clothes on his back and a Bible,” Maj. LeBlanc told the Times.

Mr. Lugo was arrested under two New York warrants on charges of grand larceny and second-degree criminal mischief. He remained in custody Tuesday at the Vermilion Parish Correctional Center, Abbeville, with an extradition hearing set for Thursday. If he waives any objection, Mr. Lugo would soon after be returned to New York. If not, officials here would need to ask Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to formally request Mr. Lugo’s extradition, a process that could take at least 30 days, Louisiana officials said.

Mr. Lugo and a second suspect, Brandon D. Crandall, 21, of Canton, allegedly entered the bookstore vestibule at 92 Park St., wrenching the 265-pound ATM from the floor and severing its cables before hauling the machine out the front door and driving off in a pickup truck. The electronic cash dispenser had been loaded with $35,000 in $20 bills not long before the theft.

Mr. Crandall was arrested days later, and investigators recovered $17,600 in cash, a pound of marijuana and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.

Police said they believed Mr. Lugo had the rest of the money. They also said he may have been armed, and may have fled the area on a motorcycle, with tips pointing Canton Police toward Florida.

It sounds like they were right, except that Mr. Lugo didn’t stay in the Sunshine State. If indeed he did walk to Louisiana, he would have faced a trek of more than 300 miles just from the western edge of Florida to Abbeville.

He was arrested following a tip to Vermilion Parish deputies about a suspicious person seen loitering near a local business. Maj. LeBlanc said deputies responding to the call found Mr. Lugo in the passenger seat of an SUV in a restaurant parking lot, but details about that vehicle were not available Tuesday afternoon.

“Upon interviewing Lugo, he stated that he was in fact from upstate New York and was on a journey, first traveling to Florida on his motorcycle and then walking along the Interstate” with no particular destination, Vermilion Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon said in a press release.

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