Man who stole $1.2 million yacht told police he was ‘just taking it for a test drive’

A Vermont man allegedly took a $1.2 million yacht for a test drive across Lake Champlain, police said.a large ship in a body of water: The yacht at Auckland's Wynyard Wharf on January 21, 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. A yacht was stolen from a New York harbor and taken for a "test drive."

Robert Morris, 56, took the yacht from the Safe Harbor Gaines Marina in Rouses Point, New York, on Monday morning, police said. The 48-foot Jeanneau Prestige 500 is owned by Ron McCarthy from Montreal. McCarthy keeps his yacht named “Volans” in a slip at the upstate New York harbor.

Morris allegedly drove the yacht from New York to St. Albans, Vermont, before being apprehended by the St. Albans Police Department. A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter patrolling the lake spotted the boat on Tuesday. Morris was arrested by local police on Burton Island in Vermont, NBC5 reported.

Morris was charged with possession of stolen property and operating without the owner’s consent, police said. Morris appeared in court on Wednesday, a day after he was arrested, for his arraignment.

“He drove the boat from Rouses Point, New York, to Burton Island, Vermont, so he crossed state lines,” Deputy State’s Attorney Deb Celis said in court.

Celis also said at the hearing that police believe Morris had the yacht for two days.

Morris claimed in court that he was water-testing the boat after fixing some mechanical problems on the yacht. He also told police that he had the permission of the owner of the boat to drive it back to McCarthy in Montreal. McCarthy denies the claim that he granted Morris permission to drive his yacht, WCAX reported.

St. Albans, where Morris was apprehended, is southeast of Rouses Point, which indicates that Morris was not heading to Canada to return the yacht.

The deputy state’s attorney asked that Morris’ bail be set at $25,000 because he is thought to be a flight risk. She said he does not know anyone in Vermont, but Morris’ defense said he had an uncle in the state.

“He advised police that he was homeless and had not been in the area for 20 years,” Celis said.

At the end of his hearing, Morris inappropriately gestured at the webcam, according to WCAX. He will be given a competency test at the request of his defense.

Additional charges for Morris may be brought up by New York State Police, according to NBC5. Because Morris traveled across state lines, a number of agencies and departments are involved in the investigation. U.S. Customs, the FBI, Vermont State Police, New York State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and local police are all involved in the investigation of the theft.

According to WCAX, Morris has prior arrests on the East Coast, and he was a wanted fugitive in the state of New Hampshire at the time of his arrest.

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