Tuesday May 14, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A former delivery route supervisor for the Bennington Banner has been accused of stealing money from the company's newspaper vending machines.

Nicholas E. Miller, 32, of Beech Street, pleaded not guilty Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to a felony count of embezzlement. He was released on conditions that he live in Bennington County, abide by a 24-hour curfew, and not go to the Bennington Banner offices.

Miller was charged as a habitual offender meaning if he is convicted of a new felony the state can argue for him to serve up to life in prison.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Lawrence Cole, on March 11 he met with Christopher Oldham, circulation and marketing director for New England Newspapers Inc., the parent company of the Bennington Banner. Oldham said he wished to file a complaint against Miller and also wanted police present when Miller was fired because he feared Miller would become violent.

Oldham told police that on March 10, a Sunday, he saw a Bennington Banner van being driven by Miller pull out of the parking lot at the Blue Benn Diner onto Route 7. Oldham said he then saw the vehicle pull into Jensen's Restaurant. A few minutes later he saw the van parked near the Bennington Banner offices, unoccupied.

This occurred between 10:20 a.m. and 10:35 a.m. Oldham said Miller would not have been working until later in the evening and there was no reason for him to be driving the van.

Oldham informed Banner Circulation Manager Carol Harris, who asked Miller why he was using the van, via text messages. Miller denied using the vehicle but said he had been at the office to do some paperwork and return a key.

Oldham checked the Banner vending machines at Jensen's and the Blue Benn and found them both empty of money. He said they were last emptied officially on March 4. Oldham then checked other machines. "By Sunday, each of the vending machines should have six days of sales. The five I checked had little to zero money. They are considered top selling vending machines," Oldham wrote in a statement to police.

Police said the Banner van has a global positioning system in it that confirmed the van was being operated that day during the times and areas Oldham reported.

Harris told police that on March 7 the total collected from the Banner's vending machines was $719. On March 13 it was $409. She said each machine has its funds put into a separate deposit bag but seven of them are currently missing. According to Harris, the amount stolen can not be verified but she believed it would be around $309.

Miller denied taking the money and said he was not in the van that Sunday. On April 7 he came to the Bennington Police Department at Cole's request and was told he was being arrested for embezzlement. Miller said it was a former employee at the Banner who took the money who had told him so via a letter, but that employee had since died. He said he had lost the envelope the letter came in.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.