October 19, 2021

Stolen safe held nearly $480,000 in cash

Spot quiz: How much does $480,000 in U.S. currency weigh?

At a gram per bill, probably not enough to cause a van to drag its tail pipe on the asphalt, but that’s what was inside a safe police found Jan. 6 after a chase from Cortland to Cortlandville and back.

Christopher M. Knickerbocker, 40, of 60 Cortland St., Homer was charged Friday with second-degree grand larceny, a felony, stemming from a January incident in which a motorist noticed a van trailing sparks down the road near Sunnyfield Drive in Cortland, heading toward Pendleton Street. What the motorist — and police — didn’t know at the time was that the stolen safe in the back was that heavy.

Cortland County sheriff’s officers encountered the van near Blodgett Mills Road and Page Green Road south of the city, where one suspect got out and ran, police said. The chase turned back toward the city, but the overloaded van spun out of control after crossing Saunders Road, tossing the safe from the van, where it skidded down the road, stopping 50 yards from the van, police said.

A front-seat passenger, Knickerbocker, fled on foot, but was captured nearby and charged then with with second-degree burglary, a felony, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Police said Jennifer M. Brill, Knickerbocker’s ex-girlfriend, who was not a passenger in the van, had told Knickerbocker about the safe and the large sum of cash it apparently contained. Brill, 45, of 13 Lee Road was charged Jan. 13 with fourth-degree criminal conspiracy, a felony. Brill was released and is scheduled to appear March 10 in Cortland City Court.

The third suspect, Santo E. Oliver, 46, of Cincinnatus, was arrested Jan. 28, and charged with second-degree burglary, a felony, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor. He is being held in the Cortland County Jail without bail and is scheduled to appear March 11 in Cortland City Court.

Investigators said Knickerbocker and Oliver hatched a plan weeks ago to steal the safe, and Knickerbocker asked for Brill’s help to create an opportunity, which came when the homeowner visited Brill in Dryden.

Brill contacted Knickerbocker to tell him the homeowner was with her and Knickerbocker responded it was “a go for tonight,” police said.

Lt. David Guerrera said Monday the victim’s safe contained nearly $480,000 in assorted currency, “from his business and he doesn’t like banks.” Police notified the Internal Revenue Service about the incident.

Knickerbocker was re-arrested about 1:20 p.m. Friday at the Cortland police station, arraigned on the new charge in Cortland City Court and released without bail. He is scheduled to appear March 17 in Cortland City Court.

Oh, and the answer to the quiz: $480,000 in $20 bills — about a gram each, according to the federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing — would weigh about 53 pounds; $50 bills would weigh about 21 pounds.