BENNINGTON -- A Dorset woman who told police she stole from her family's business because she owed money to a drug dealer was charged Monday with several felonies and ordered into rehabilitation.
Tamara B. Bruce, 30, pleaded not guilty Monday to grand larceny, 15 felony counts of forgery, a misdemeanor count of false pretenses, and two misdemeanor counts of possession of a narcotic. The state agreed to suspend the $2,500 bail imposed on her and a number of other release conditions while she attends the Valley Vista drug rehabilitation facility in Bradford. A bed there was not readily available so she is being held at the Rutland jail until a spot opens up.
Upon being released from Valley Vista, Bruce must report to the Vermont Superior Court in Bennington.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Paul F. Sokolowski Jr., on March 10 Bonnie Bruce, owner of Up for Breakfast restaurant in Manchester, told police that a relative had gone to her home to pick up some papers for the restaurant and discovered a safe was missing along with a vehicle used by Tamara Bruce.
Bonnie Bruce, who is Tamara Bruce's mother, was in Florida at the time. Tamara Bruce lives at her house with her boyfriend, Jacob L. Davis, 24.
The safe held one of two keys to the missing vehicle -- the other being in Bonnie Bruce's possession -- checks, credit cards, collector coins, and personal documents. A large-screen television was also discovered to be missing.
Bruce contacted the Bank of Bennington and learned a $385 check had been cashed at the bank's Arlington branch by Tamara Bruce. Bonnie Bruce had a financial hold placed on the account which prevented another check from being cashed later that afternoon.
Police learned from the bank that Tamara Bruce had attempted to cash the checks from a drive-through window and that there was a male with her in the vehicle when she did so.
On March 14, Tamara Bruce returned to her mother's home, where police picked her up and took her to the Manchester Police Department along with Davis.
Tamara Bruce said that on March 9 she was in Troy, N.Y., where she was threatened by a drug dealer called "Black," to whom she owes $1,500 to for drugs. "He continued to tell me I didn't want to know what he would do to myself, or my family if I didn't get him the money or something of value that day," she wrote in a statement.
She got into a vehicle with Black and another person and they drove to her home in Dorset where they took the safe and the television. Tamara Bruce was dropped off in Bennington and told police she succeeded in convincing Black and the other person to return the items from the safe they did not need.
Davis told police the same story but denied being present for the check-cashing. He said he did not see the items stolen and did not know what was happening until after it was done and Tamara Bruce told him about it.
Tamara Bruce's room was searched and police found numerous drug related items including bank checks belonging to Bonnie Bruce. They also found three and a half tablets of prescription drugs.
The search of her vehicle turned up a coin-collecting book devoid of coins, personal papers, checks, and other items last seen in the safe.
According to a second affidavit by Manchester Police Chief Michael Hall, in the late fall of 2013 he was approached by Bonnie Bruce who said she had concerns about her daughter, Tamara. She believed Tamara Bruce had stolen checks from the restaurant business and had fallen back into drug use. Her attempts to get Tamara Bruce into rehab had failed because Tamara Bruce was pregnant.
Hall wrote that the child was born on Jan. 29 and that Tamara Bruce went to Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y., for a month for detoxification followed by a stay at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.
"The decision to withhold seeking criminal charges against Tamara has been a significant dilemma for the Bruce family," Hall wrote, saying he has known the family for 40 years. Tamara Bruce has struggled with her addiction for a number of years, overdosing at one point, which caused her to be on life support for a month.
The incident with the safe prompted the family to seek charges against Tamara Bruce for stolen checks. According to the affidavit, Tamara Bruce had taken 13 checks between Sept. 7 and Dec. 11 and cashed them with no authorization to do so. All together she took $8,760, per the affidavit.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.