BENNINGTON — A man pleaded not guilty Friday to 45 new charges stemming from complaints that he defrauded people across the country in deals involving hay, maple syrup, farm equipment and collectible model cars.
The man, Richard Blackmer, 39, denied multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of false pretenses. These bring his total criminal charges in one Bennington County case to 75, which altogether expose him to a maximum penalty of 600 years in prison.
Blackmer, a Shaftsbury resident during the alleged crimes, earlier pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of false pretenses as well as bad checks. At the hearing Friday, Blackmer’s lawyer said he’ll be working with the state’s attorney’s office to come up with a resolution that would encompass Blackmer’s various criminal cases. They include an older Bennington County case of home improvement fraud and false pretenses, as well as one in Addison county of felony false pretenses.
Defense attorney Matthew Hart said he needed “a chunk of time” to evaluate all of Blackmer’s charges, including instances where his client has already compensated the complainants.
“We got a lot to look at,” Hart told the court. “It’s gonna be a long time.” Blackmer phoned in to the remote hearing.
State police earlier said that since 2013, Blackmer has received around $500,000 from customers and still owes at least $230,000 for goods that weren’t delivered.
The affidavit also included the detail that Blackmer suffers from a gambling problem, as his girlfriend reportedly told police.
Investigators said Blackmer’s fraudulent activities involved picking up hay from local farms or grain stores and paying with bad checks. He supposedly would then find customers for the hay and deliver either samples or an initial load.
Police said he would con the customers into purchasing additional deliveries, often offering “deals,” and require them to pay up front. But Blackmer reportedly didn’t deliver the hay after collecting payment.
They said he used a similar method to defraud people of maple syrup, maple syrup equipment, farm equipment and collectible model cars.
Blackmer offered a litany of excuses on why he couldn’t deliver the product, the payment or the refund, police said. These supposedly included issues with his truck, his employees, the weather, the bank, the post office, child care, his grandfather’s death, his father’s health, his son’s health, his health — including one instance where Blackmer apparently had open heart surgery, went into a coma and died.
Court records show that complainants come from at least a dozen states, including California, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Blackmer was arrested in April and is free from jail on conditions. They include not engaging in business dealings through social media or entering into any contract greater than $500 unless he has court approval.