Tan Prazeres

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BURLINGTON — A Connecticut man, who police say was hiding in Bennington to avoid a litany of criminal charges in his home state, has pleaded not guilty in federal court to a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Bennington Police found Tan Prazeres, 42, and a woman passed out in a gold Jeep Cherokee at 107 Main St. at about 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, records show.

Prazeres, after awaking, continuously insisted he was Travis Leblanc and gave a false date of birth, police said.

A Homeland Security Investigations special agent, assigned to Bennington County, was able the next day to get a partial fingerprint off a magazine for a Raven .25-caliber pistol seized in the case, police said.

The special agent also was able to eventually link it to Prazeres and also found an out-of-state obituary for Leblanc, who died last year, police said.

By the time the true identity for Prazeres was known, he had fled back to Connecticut, where he was subsequently arrested on local criminal charges there, officials said. A federal detainer was filed in Connecticut, asking that he be turned over to authorities in Vermont to face charges from the Bennington investigation.

Federal marshals brought Prazeres to Vermont this week, so he could enter a plea and the prosecution could get started here.

Prazeres is prohibited from possessing a firearm because he is a convicted felon, police said. His record includes a felony conviction for failure to appear in court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont said.

Federal Magistrate Kevin Doyle ordered him detained pending trial.

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Assistant Federal Defender Steven Barth did not contest the detention order. Barth asked for 90 days to investigate the case because of the modest amount of evidence and the lengthy criminal history for Prazeres. He also noted there were issues concerning drugs and mental health that had to be studied.

Doyle set Sept. 28 as the deadline for pretrial motions.

Bennington Police reported that cocaine, suboxone and identification documents for four people, including Leblanc and Prazeres, were seized during the search. They included a Social Security card and a Brazilian identification card.

The whole case began when Bennington Police were asked to respond to a possible overdose complaint. Responding officers knocked on the windows of the Jeep and had trouble rousing the couple. Eventually the woman, who was behind the wheel, responded when police opened the passenger side door to speak to the man, police said.

The man was holding a “stem” that is commonly used to smoke crack cocaine, police reported. Police rubbed the man’s sternum to get him to wake up. He eventually identified himself as Travis Leblanc. A hypodermic needle was found behind his back, police said.

The man and woman refused to allow a search of the Jeep when officers spotted the stem and the needle, police said. Bennington Rescue eventually took him to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, while the woman, identified as Rebekah Ross, left on foot to go to the hospital, police said. She does not face any charges, police said.

Police seized the Jeep, and the department’s drug sniffing dog, Gracie, alerted to contraband in the vehicle, police said.

Judge Cortland Corsones approved a search warrant the next day and police said they found the gun, drugs, various identifications cards, five cellphones, six kinds of pills in bottles and more.

The Jeep had Massachusetts license plates but were not assigned to it, police said. A New York registration plate also was found in it, police said.


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