November 30, 2021

Man pleads guilty in $500,000 safe theft

A list of criminal charges accumulated over the last couple of years was wrapped up Tuesday when the defendant suddenly admitted guilt in Cortland County Court.

Santo Oliver initially rejected a plea agreement from the county District Attorney’s Office that had previously been withdrawn, but changed his mind after County Judge David Alexander scheduled his trial for Aug. 30.

Oliver pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary, a felony, for his part in stealing a safe containing nearly $500,000 in cash from a Sunnyfield Drive home in the city on Jan. 6, 2020.

The plea agreement also satisfies a second-degree grand larceny felony count for the safe theft and an unrelated felony charge accusing Oliver and another man of stealing a farm tractor and other equipment worth more than $40,000 from a Harford farm in March 2019 and a couple of unspecified more recent misdemeanors.

On March 26, 2019, Oliver and Glen Brenchely III walked onto a 60-acre camp property on Owego Hill Road in Harford, broke a lock and made off with a farm tractor and utility vehicle worth more than $40,000, police said. After the owner reported the theft, Cortland County sheriff’s officers found the tractor and utility vehicle at Oliver’s home in Harford.

Oliver was charged with third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal mischief, felonies, as well as third-degree criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

In response to a series of questions by Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser, Oliver admitted to entering the house through the garage and stealing a large safe.

According to police reports, police began chasing the van they were driving in after it was spotted dragging on the street and throwing sparks because of the weight of the safe.

The agreement reached Tuesday includes five years in state prison and five months of parole afterward.

Oliver has a criminal history dating back to a misdemeanor assault arrest in 1993. The first felony charge came in 2004, a $9,000 theft of logs. More misdemeanor and felony charges and convictions followed. High-speed chases, parole violations, resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated, drug felonies, burglaries. Jail time, prison time. Several felonies were later reduced to misdemeanors.

Oliver missed several court appearances on the charges pending Tuesday. But his appearance was guaranteed as he appeared in court in shackles wearing an orange jumpsuit from the Broome County Jail, where faces an unrelated felony drug charge.

He will likely be at his sentencing Oct. 5 in Cortland County Court, as Alexander rejected defense attorney Chistopher Thorpe’s request to release his client on bail. Simser opposed the request.

He will be considered a persistent felony offender, which results in more significant jail time.