Local authorities spent several hours in St. Augustine Beach
towing a sailboat that ran aground near the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier.
But before they removed the vessel from the Atlantic, a St. Augustine man sneaked aboard and tried to steal several items from its deck, according to St. Augustine Beach Police.
Police arrested Joseph Russo, 46, late Tuesday night and charged him with unarmed burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, trespassing and possession of burglary tools. Russo remained jailed on $5,500 bail Thursday morning, booking records indicated.
Two travelers were riding a sailboat when it ran out fuel Tuesday afternoon, and winds pushed it ashore causing the boat to run aground near the fishing pier in St. Augustine Beach.
St. Johns County Public Works crews, St. Augustine Beach police, Sheriff’s Office beach patrol officers and marine units worked with the Yelton Construction Company to remove the beached vessel. Jacksonville-based Allen’s Towing Service transported the boat to the Tillman Ridge Transfer Station in Elkton.
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But according to an arrest report, an officer on patrol spotted Russo stealing a tool kit, bicycle, military duffel bag and several fishing rods from the boat’s hull while it was stranded on the beach overnight. Russo had several wrenches he’d stolen from onboard when police stopped him. He said he was trying to remove the boat’s steering wheel.
Russo admitted to officers he knew the beach was closed due to an emergency order for coronavirus, according to the report. After officers took him into custody, Russo said he thought he was allowed to take items from the boat.
“I don’t understand why I can’t remove property from the boat. Maritime law states I can,” he told officers as they drove him to jail, according to the arrest report.