SENECA FALLS — Seneca Falls Police Department Lt. Tim Snyder has seen a wide variety of crime during his more than two decades in law enforcement.
How about a stolen yacht?
“That’s a first for me in my 21 years,” Snyder said by phone Monday.
Snyder was discussing a bizarre incident Friday afternoon that led to the arrest of Eric B. Warbelton, 35, who was charged by town police with a felony count of second-degree grand larceny. Police said Warbelton, a Nebraska native, is homeless.
At about 4:30 p.m. Friday, Warbelton is accused of stealing a large boat moored on the Cayuga-Seneca Canal near Cowing Street. Snyder noted the boat, which he said could be referred to as a yacht, is at least 45 feet long with two decks.
“He just hopped on, started the motor and took off,” said Snyder, who said Warbelton has no connection to Seneca Falls. “He left Nebraska, was in several states, and somehow ended up in Seneca Falls.”
Snyder said the owner of the boat — who he declined to name — and several other people, who were near the dock at the time, saw the boat being driven away. The mooring ropes were snapped.
Police said Warbelton took the boat west toward Waterloo, but could not get through the village because the canal lock was closed. In the meantime, a boater who followed him and relayed information to a 911 dispatcher.
“We got a phone call and were on it right away,” Snyder said. “We were tracking him the whole time.”
Warbelton was taken into custody after trying unsuccessfully to turn the large boat around in the lock, damaging the vessel. While Snyder did not have an estimate on how much the boat is worth, the threshold for second-degree grand larceny is at least $50,000.
Snyder was one of numerous police officers who responded to the scene. He talked with Warbelton later.
“He said he wanted to take the boat to Canada,” said Snyder, adding that Warbelton was not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Warbelton was taken to the Seneca County Jail for arraignment, but released on his own recognizance as the charge is not eligible for bail. He will answer the charge at first in Seneca Falls Town Court, although the case will eventually be handled in county court due to the felony charge.
“You know how I feel about bail reform,” Snyder said. “This guy could easily not show up in court and end up in another state.”