Monday March 4, 2013

N.Y. man convicted of identity and check thefts

BENNINGTON -- A New York man who represented himself while on trial for identity theft and possessing stolen checks was convicted of those charges Tuesday by a jury.

Spencer B. Durham, 37, of Hudson Falls, N.Y., was found guilty of two felony counts of identity theft, a felony charge of forgery, and a misdemeanor charge of possession of stolen property. The state had filed a habitual offender enhancement against him but because of a defect in the wording on the charging document the enhancement was dismissed by the court, according to Deputy State’s Attorney Alexander Burke.

According to police, on Sept. 7 Durham was pulled over in Bennington while riding a motorcycle. He was arrested because of outstanding warrants from New York. Police said when they stopped Durham a vehicle ahead of him stopped as well. In the vehicle were Durham’s associates along with a jacket belonging to Durham that contained bank checks belonging to Linda and Pete Blandy, of Chittenden.

In his closing arguments Burke highlighted that the Blandys testified they do not know Durham, had never seen him before, and never gave him permission to have their checkbook. He said it was Durham’s claim that the Blandys were friends of his and he had permission to have the checks.


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Burke reviewed the findings of a police investigation into other alleged forgery actions by Durham, which he was not charged with but, according to Burke, demonstrated a pattern of behavior that indicated Durham intended to fraudulently use the Blandys’ checks. One check for $450, according to police, was written out to Durham.

According to a State Police affidavit, in August troopers received a report of stolen mail from Maria Legrys in Dorset. Legrys told police checks she had sent out were reproduced and cashed and that she suspected Durham was involved. She got this information from her credit union and when police examined the checks they found Durham’s driver’s license number was on them. According to police, Durham was also suspected of using Legrys information to purchase a motorcycle.

Dunlap also spoke to Barbara Clark, who said two checks belonging to her had been cashed and made out to Durham, who she does not know.

Durham, in his closing arguments, said the state was relying on "prior bad acts" to convict him on the charges regarding the Blandy checks. He said he was not charged or convicted of the other crimes and noted that the checks he was accused of possessing were found in his jacket, which he said had been in the car outside of his attention for two days.

He said there was no direct evidence against him and the people in the vehicle that stopped ahead of him were not adequately questioned or investigated by police. He said no fingerprints or handwriting samples were ever taken. He admitted that he gave police a false name when he was pulled over and said it was a stupid thing to have done but he did not have the proper paperwork to be operating the motorcycle.

Durham is currently being held at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield for lack of $50,000 bail. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 31 in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division.

-- Keith Whitcomb Jr.

Accused coin thief found hiding under blanket

BENNINGTON -- Police said they found a Pleasant Street man suspected of stealing a friend’s coin collection hiding under a blanket inside the closet of his apartment.

On Monday, William Beagle, 58, pleaded not guilty to a felony county of grand larceny and was released on conditions he not go to the home of Gregory Russell, 65, the owner of the missing coins.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Amanda Thompson, on Jan. 15 at 11:49 p.m. she went to Russell’s home to speak with him about the reported theft. Russell said he had been told by Luci Sprague, his friend, that Beagle had taken his coins. Sprague told police that on Jan. 14 she was with Beagle and some of their friends who went to Russell’s house. She said Beagle and another man went into his apartment and came out with some coins, which they said they would give to a friend to sell in Rutland. Sprague told police that the next day Beagle said the coins were gone and the money had been used to buy drugs.

Russell said he was missing two "books" of coins which he said he paid $15,000 for over the course of collecting them. He said Beagle knew he had the coins and where he kept them. According to Russell, Beagle promised him he would repay him for the coins but so far had not.

On Feb. 7, Thompson went to Beagle’s apartment and found him under a blanket inside a closet. Beagle told police he had gone to Russell’s apartment with Sprague and two other friends to borrow money from him. He said he and another male went into Russell’s apartment and were given $40. He said they all then went to a bar.

Thompson said Beagle denied knowing Russell had coins and said he would not know where they were if he had known. She wrote he then claimed to have only learned of them two weeks before and only saw them once. Thompson was unable to locate Beagle’s two other friends for questioning.

-- Keith Whitcomb Jr.

Video shot by stolen hotel camera leads to arrest

RUTLAND TOWN (AP) -- Vermont state police say a man who stole a security camera from a Rutland Town hotel was identified and caught via footage recorded by the stolen camera.

The digital security camera was stolen from the lobby of the Nordic Inn on Feb. 19. State police say the theft was captured on the security footage, and the suspect was identified as 22-year-old Jesse Davis of Rutland Town.

He was arrested Sunday and charged with larceny

Bennington woman faces felony charges in thefts from Saratoga Springs friend

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A Vermont woman was charged Tuesday with multiple felonies for allegedly stealing more than $8,000 from an acquaintance who lived in Saratoga Springs.

Holly Lynn Freeman, 57, of Bennington, Vt., faces five counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, felonies.

Police said the thefts were reported Jan. 22 and were committed over a period of time with the victim’s credit card and checks. Officials estimate that anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000 was stolen by Freeman. She was arraigned and will appear in City Court at a later date.

Information from The Saratogian.