Shaftsbury man pleads not guilty to fraud charges

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BENNINGTON — A Shaftsbury man who police say defrauded at least two dozen people in eight states in deals involving hay, maple syrup, farm equipment and collectible model cars over a span of at least seven years has pleaded not guilty.

Richard Blackmer Jr., 38, is facing 18 felony charges of false pretenses greater than $900, two misdemeanor charges of false pretenses less than or equal to $900, as well as 10 misdemeanor charges of bad checks.

He pleaded not guilty April 24 in Bennington Superior criminal court, where Judge John Valente set a $10,000 secured appearance bond, according to court records.

His conditions of release include not engaging in business dealings through social media or entering into any contract greater than $500 unless he has court approval.

Sworn police statements filed in court — more than 80 pages long — show that Vermont State Police received the first complaint against Blackmer in August of last year. Further investigation turned up 23 more complainants, including two whose transactions occurred outside the statute of limitations, according to a statement by Trooper Nicholas Grimes.

An additional 13 complainants had been interviewed by the time Blackmer was charged in April, Grimes said, and investigators were collecting supporting documents from them. Another 30 "potential victims" had been identified, but they had not yet been interviewed at that time.

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After Blackmer's arrest in April, Vermont State Police said their investigation found he had been involved in several fraudulent transactions. He allegedly picked up hay from local farms or grain stores and paid with bad checks. Other times, he supposedly failed to either pay later as promised or deliver the equipment he offered to barter for the hay.

Police said Blackmer found customers for the hay he'd gotten and delivered either samples or an initial load. They said he would then con the customer into purchasing additional deliveries of hay and require them to pay up front, often offering them "deals" on the hay. But Blackmer reportedly didn't deliver the hay after collecting payment.

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Police said he used a similar method to defraud people of maple syrup, maple syrup equipment, farm equipment and collectible model cars.

Blackmer's earliest fraudulent transaction allegedly dates to 2013 and involved a Minnesota man who met Blackmer on the online marketplace eBay. Police said Blackmer collected around $7,300 from the man in exchange for "rare" cars, and the man also sent Blackmer about $3,300 worth of cars but only received $900 through PayPal.

One of the most recent transactions reportedly involved a Vermont man from whom Blackmer ordered 500 bales of hay in January. Police said the check that Blackmer paid the man bounced, and that Blackmer's promises to send another check or cash never materialized.

Trooper Grimes said Blackmer offered a litany of excuses why he couldn't deliver the product, the payment or the refund. They 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 supposedly had open heart surgery, went into a coma and died.

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The people listed as victims in court records lived in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, as well as North Carolina, Minnesota and California. They included two men who introduced themselves as Blackmer's former employees and reported that Blackmer owed them a combined $44,000 in unpaid wages.

When Blackmer did pay back people he owed, it was usually after they'd reported him to police or filed a lawsuit against him.

Among the out-of-state law enforcement agencies that investigated him, according to court records, were the Ashby (MA) Police Department, Greenfield (MA) Police Department, Niskayuna (NY) Police Department and Plainfield (CT) Police Department.

Blackmer's next hearing has yet to be scheduled, according to the court clerks. He is represented by defense attorney Matthew Hart.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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