Police ramp up search for fugitive


EPHRATAH — State police are publicly stepping up their efforts to find a Herkimer County man arrested late last winter for stealing a $125,000 brush truck from the Ephratah Volunteer Fire Department and trying to sell it in Maryland.

Troopers this week reminded the public on its internet links that a warrant remains out for 25-year-old Claude E. Bruce Jr. of Frankfort.

Troop D in Herkimer made public a wanted poster with details about the suspect. Bruce is wanted for fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

State police say that Bruce is a white male, six-foot, seven-inches tall, weighing 230 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes.

According to information provided by state police, Bruce is wanted on an arrest warrant issued April 29 by Herkimer Town Court. In February, as a volunteer firefighter with the Ephratah Volunteer Fire Department, he allegedly stole a “brush truck” from his fire company. Troopers said Bruce then drove the truck to his residence in Herkimer County and unloaded equipment, before driving to Maryland to sell the truck.

Bruce was arrested in late February in Maryland for the stolen truck and brought back to New York state, where he was charged with theft of the vehicle in Fulton County. He had been released on his own recognizance before absconding.

At the time of Bruce’s arrest, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said the truck was found in Cumberland, Md. He was charged by Cumberland police with four counts of theft over $100,000 and four additional traffic related charges, including operating without a license, operating on suspended out-of-state license, driving a vehicle without owner’s consent, and taking a vehicle without owner’s consent.

His warrant from New York state charged him with grand larceny.

Ephratah Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Joe Ruggeri couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Giardino at the time said that as a member of that department, Bruce had access to the facility, which is how he was able to take the brush truck. He said Bruce allegedly stole the truck to drive to Cumberland to meet with someone he met on social media.

When Cumberland police found the 2004 F-360 truck in Cumberland, Bruce couldn’t be located. But dispatchers found social media information leading to a nearby residence, where Bruce was later found.

State police said that anyone with information on Bruce’s whereabouts should contact state police as soon as possible. The public shouldn’t take action themselves, police said. Contact state police at (316) 366-6000 or email crimetip@troopers.ny.gov.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.