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Man accused of stealing pricey yacht in New York and setting sail for Vermont

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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ROUSES POINT, N.Y. (WCAX) - A man accused of stealing a million-dollar yacht from Northern New York and driving it across Lake Champlain to Vermont appeared in court Wednesday.

The boat was stolen Tuesday from the Safe Harbor Gaines Marina in Rouses Point.

Robert Morris, 56, faces felony charges in the case.

“Absolutely shocking,” said Ralph Choiniere of Rouses Point.

Ralph and Ann Choiniere are both retired and have lived in the community most of their lives.

They spend their days going on bike rides and love to sit on the bench across from Safe Harbor Gaines Marina to admire the boats.

“Just sort of a hobby of ours,” Ralph said.

They had not heard about the yacht stolen Tuesday from the marina. The 48-foot “Volans” is valued at $1.2 million in Canadian dollars.

“We have no burglaries, we have no armed robbery, we have none of that stuff,” Ralph said. “That is surprising, yes it is.”

The yacht belongs to Montreal resident Ron McCarthy who keeps his boat at a slip at the Northern New York marina.

“They can’t come over to check their things,” Ann Choiniere said. “I feel bad about that.”

Morris is currently being held at Northwest State Correctional Facility. He had his court arraignment on Wednesday.

Morris was very vocal throughout the hearing. He faces felony charges for grand larceny.

Deputy State’s Attorney Deb Celis says Morris had the boat for at least two days.

“He drove the boat from Rouses Point, New York, to Burton Island, Vermont, so he crossed state lines,” Celis said.

Morris interrupted to say he was water testing the boat after making mechanical fixes.

An affidavit from the Vermont State Police says they found five sets of boat keys on the vessel and the marina said they were missing the keys.

Morris has a rap sheet that spans New England and he was a wanted fugitive in New Hampshire.

Morris shared with the police many reasons why he was on the boat, saying he had permission from the owner-- which McCarthy says isn’t true-- and that he was driving the boat to Montreal to return the boat to McCarthy.

But Morris was found heading south rather than north with the boat.

Celis requested a $25,000 bond calling Morris a flight risk.

“He has little to no contacts with the state of Vermont,” she said. “He advised police that he was homeless and had not been in the area for 20 years.”

His defense attorney says Morris is staying at his uncle’s house in Alburgh. He asked for a competency exam which the judge granted.

Morris left the meeting making an inappropriate gesture to the webcam.

“It’s sad,” Ann Choiniere said.

Back in Rouses Point, community members are still trying to wrap their heads around this and say they hope it doesn’t take away business for area marinas.

“Major lifeline for Rouses Point, that marina. It brings lots and lots of economies here,” Ralph Choiniere said.

A New York judge signed extradition paperwork to have Morris sent to New York to face charges.

Police say the investigation continues.

I did reach out to the marina for a comment but never heard back before this story was published, though I did see staff at the marina Wednesday.

Related Story:

Stolen yacht recovered on Lake Champlain

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