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North Adams Firefighters Douse Car Fire

Staff Reports
Firefighters doused a car fire on Sunday afternoon.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters made short work of a car fire on Sunday afternoon but the vehicle was a total loss.

Chris Bonnivier of Adams said he was driving down Curran Highway when his 1999 Volvo sedan began smoking from the engine compartment just before 3 p.m.

He pulled into the parking lot of the former North Adams Plaza and got out of the car before the engine burst into flame. The dark smoke billowing out the parking lot could be seen from Hodges Cross Road.

"I really liked that car," said Bonnivier, who added the sedan had some 200,000 miles on it. "I've never had anything like that happen to me before."

The interior of the car was totally gutted, some of the tire popped and the windows blew out. Fire Lt. John Paciorek said it would be difficult to impossible to determine what caused the fire. "Everything in there is incinerated."

Surprisingly, Bonnivier was able to recover one of the three briefcases he had in the car. One in the back seat survived but was dripping as he pulled it out. "You guys overdid the water," he joked.

No one was injured and remains of the car were removed.


North Adams Men Charged in Holyoke Purse Snatching

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Masslive.com is reporting that two city men have been arrested for allegedly stealing a purse from a 73-year-old woman at the Holyoke Mall.

The news site reports that Jesse Sprague, 31, of Cliff Street and Patrick Gaffey, 45, of Daniels Road were arrested shortly after noon on Thursday after state police pulled over the white van that Gaffey was driving south on Interstate 91.

Sprague allegedly grabbed the woman's purse as she was walking to her car from the lower level of Macy's and jumped in the van. According to police reports, he allegedly ran off after the van was stopped and arrested after troopers caught him.

Gaffey was charged with traffic violations, including speeding and driving with a suspended license; Sprague was charged with disorderly conduct. Both were charged "with unarmed robbery of a person 65 or older," according to Masslive.


North Adams Pair Charged with Pot Operation

Staff Reports
iBerkshires Columnist

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two people have been charged with operating what police said was a "significant" marijuana production and distribution system.

Daniel Chao, 37,  and Stephanie LeMay, 33, were arrested after a warrant was executed at their 9 Fairgrounds Ave. residence on Wednesday morning.

North Adams Police, working state police detectives, found two pounds of marijuana packaged and ready for sale,  88 marijuana plants and hash oil.

"It was a significant growing operation," said Police Director Michael Cozzaglio on Thursday. "There was upwards of a month of investigation before the execution of the search warrant."

Chao and Lemay, who were renting the single-family home, were both charged with possession of a Class D drug and possession with intent to distribute for the marijuana and for possession and intent to distribute for the hash oil, and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Police seized "everything that goes with a growing operation," said Cozzaglio, including the plants, lights, soil, fertilizer, scales and other times.

Chao has been "known" to police for sometime, said Cozzaglio, and has a record going back to at least 2006.  "He's not a new name."

There have been seizures of growing operations in the past but not one this significant in some time, he said. There have been busts of product imported for distribution.

"We don't usually find a growing operation like this," said Cozzaglio. "In recent memory no, we haven't had anything like this."


Construction Workers Treated at North Adams Supermarket

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — D'Amours Big Y was closed Wednesday morning after construction workers were apparently overcome by carbon monoxide.
The supermarket is revamping part of its store to include a cafe area. 
Fire Director Stephen Meranti said a call was received at about 7:30 a.m. that two people were feeling effects that could be attributed to carbon monoxide. Both were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital where they were being treated.
Carbon monoxide poisoning causes symptoms including lightheadedness, headaches and confusion.
Firefighters and personnel from North Adams Ambulance Service remained on scene until the building could be cleared. It was expected to reopen at about 11 a.m.

Businesses Warned of Utility Scam

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Area businesses are being warned not for fall for a scam targeting their electricity accounts.

At least one business owner fell for the con in which someone calls up claiming to be from National Grid and threatens to turn off the electricity unless the victim pays through GreenDot MoneyPak payment cards.

Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson said four business owners have already contacted him about the scam, which has been floating around at least since this past April.

National Grid, in a press release, said it has "received numerous calls from electric customers saying they have been contacted by phone by individuals claiming to be from National Grid and advising the customers they have a past due balance on their utility bill."

The utility notes that is does contact customers with overdue accounts to offer payment options, "but never demands direct payment over the telephone."

Colleen Taylor of the Freight Yard Pub was contacted by the scammers on Tuesday morning and immediately brought it to the attention of Johnson and iBerkshires and gave us the scammer's number at 801-850-6225 in Provo, Utah. The number appears to be routed through Ymax Communications Corp., purveyors of the magicJack phone service.

We called and spoke first with a man named Mike Wallace who sent us to his "supervisor" Jason Roberts.

Roberts informed us that we needed to purchase those GreenDot cards to pay our bill because the technicians "have a van with every single customer's information, credit card, Social Security, checking routing number, so on and so forth" and if it got stolen, the thief would have all our information.

That's why if there's an hour cancelation they won't accept a check or cash payment.

No, that doesn't make any sense, but the scammers do talk a good line trying to make it sound reasonable. Really, if your utility asks you to go buy some money card at Cumberland Farms — hang up.

National Grid says to call its Customer Contact Center at 1-800-322-3223 if you receive any suspicious calls demanding account information or immediate payment. Western Massachusetts Electric Co. is also aware of the scam, which hit the Springfield area in July. WMECo customers can call 1-877-OK- WMECo.

After getting off the phone with Mr. Roberts, Charles Anderson of the "National Grid Disconnect Department" called us back, saying a technician would arrive at 2 p.m. to disconnect us. We can't wait.

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