A Metropolitan Transit Authority electrician in Long Island has been arrested after trying to steal welding machines to pay off a $10,000 tax debt to the Internal Revenue Service, accidentally taking down power lines while trying to escape with them in his truck and leaving 6,100 electricity customers in the dark.
Joel Grasman, 53, was arrested Wednesday morning, according to the New York Post, and admitted to sneaking into the Jamaica, Queens, yard where he works late Monday night. He wanted to steal several welding machines to pay off $10,000 in taxes that the IRS said he and his wife owed for failing to report a loan from her pension. He loaded the machines into his Mack truck, but forgot to lower the long boom on the truck before driving off to store the goods in his brother’s garage in Elmont, Queens.
“I wanted to get out of there before I attracted any attention and I forgot to put the boom down,” he admitted, according to the Post. “I started driving and then I started to see sparks of light in the sky.”
After continuing to drive, he finally realized he had left the boom up and he had to swerve across the road to avoid hitting more power wires.
Nevertheless, he left over 6,000 people without electricity on Long Island and caused an estimated $2 million to $3 million in damage. He pulled the truck over on a ramp on the side of the highway and saw the power lines tangled up in the boom on his truck. Grasman said he could hear police sirens and see police car lights in the distance. He phoned his wife and told her he had an accident, and she called him back to say the police were looking for him. Grasman’s defense attorney told the Post his client has bipolar disorder and had a negative reaction to his medication. He is said to be still suffering from trauma after working as a first responder after 9/11 at Ground Zero. As of Thursday, he was being held on a $100,000 bond.