Man faces 10 years for burglaries, thefts

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BENNINGTON — A local man faces up to ten years in prison after admitting this week to a string of burglaries and thefts across Bennington County.

Nicholas D. Leonard, 31, told police that he cashed paychecks stolen from former coworkers, broke into dozens of cars, and withdrew money using stolen ATM and debit cards in 2016, which was described as "a drug fueled crime spree," according to court documents.

Leonard pleaded guilty in Bennington criminal court on Tuesday to felony forgery by published instrument (five counts), identity theft (three counts), and single counts of grand larceny and burglary.

Vermont Superior Court Judge William D. Cohen ordered a presentence investigation report by the Department of Corrections. A two-hour hearing for Leonard's sentencing will be scheduled within 60 days.

Troopers with the Vermont State Police began investigating in March 2016 after being told that stolen paychecks had been fraudulently cashed at Bank of Bennington branches in Bennington, Arlington and Manchester. Four paychecks, totaling about $2,800, had been stolen from an office at the Stratton Mountain Ski Resort in Winhall, according to a court affidavit. Leonard was a former employee and had access to the office.

Police obtained bank surveillance footage that showed a man, who they identified as Leonard, cash the stolen checks.

Investigators also tied Leonard to an influx of crimes and burglaries in Bennington County. Leonard was arrested on unrelated charges in April 5, 2016 in Lanesborough, Mass. Troopers with the Shaftsbury barracks spoke with him while he was being held at the Berkshire County House of Corrections in Pittsfield.

Leonard, in an interview with police, admitted to taking and fraudulently cashing the four paychecks, telling them he committed that and other crimes to feed his heroin addiction.

Leonard said he stole debit cards, personal checks, and other items from up to 100 cars throughout the county. He also admitted to stealing and re-selling hundreds of dollars worth of items from people who were visiting Stratton Mountain and items owned by the resort. Leonard also admitted to breaking into a home on Laver Road in Sunderland on March 16, 2016.

Leonard has been detained in Vermont prison since March 28, 2017; court records show he was ordered held without bail at his arraignment in Rutland County. He was charged as a habitual offender because he has been convicted of at least three felonies, including: Burglary, grand larceny and possessing stolen property in 2011; gross negligent operation in 2006; and escaping custody (furlough) in 2005.

Under a plea agreement, the prosecution will cap its request at five to 10 years.

The state also agreed to dismiss 20 other charges when Leonard is sentenced, including multiple counts of false swearing, false pretense and larceny.

Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett is prosecuting the case. Leonard is represented by Susan Keane McManus.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.




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