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School Union Ex-Workers Charged With Embezzlement

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two former Northern Berkshire School Union employees were charged on Monday with making nearly $30,000 in unauthorized purchases with the union's credit cards.

Carol Fryc, 71, of North Adams and Donna Burdick, 57, of Florida, were both arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court after a state police investigation revealed $29,631 worth of unauthorized purchases. They are being charged with single counts of larceny over $250.

The two worked in the small school union office in North Adams; the school union includes Clarksburg, Florida and Savoy schools.

According to court documents, Fryc, the school union's business manager, used the credit cards for an array of purchases — from veterinarian bills to digital cameras to candy for the office — at both Staples and WalMart. Some of the purchases were work-related but "unauthorized" while others were for personal use. Burdick allegedly used the credit cards for purchases from Staples.

The charges date back to 2004 — and some $8,000 is still questioned — but wasn't discovered until last fall when then Clarksburg Selectwoman Debra LeFave suspected that invoices were being forged. The School Union Superintendent Jonathan Lev filed a police response and both women were fired.

The largest unauthorized expenditures came from gift cards. More than $12,000 of the purchases were for Staples gift cards, which were later used for various purchases.

'Bottle Bomb' Found Along Clarksburg Road

Staff Reports
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — A bomb squad technician removed a suspicious bottle of chemicals Wednesday morning from Middle Road.

"It's something kids usually mess around with," Police Chief Michael Williams said. "They put household chemicals in a bottle, it expands until it breaks but [this one] probably vented before it broke."

Williams said the plastic bottle was discovered by a homeowner off the side of the road on her property. "She thought it was trash but somebody told her to call the police ... there was something inside it that looked funny."

It appeared that a household chemical had been mixed into the bottle with an element to cause a reaction. He said they're not uncommon and he had run across one in the past that had burst.

The bomb squad was contacted and a technician came up to make sure it was safe. "He packaged it up and removed it," said Williams. "We didn't want anyone to get hurt."

The so-called "works bombs" or bottle bombs are easy to make and cause a bang when they blow up. The device is dangerous to the individuals mixing the chemicals but could cause serious injuries if someone was holding it or near it when it burst.

The bottle was apparently tossed or dropped by the road sometime during the night or early morning. There was no indication anyone was being targeted.

However, a works bomb would classify it as an "infernal device," said Williams, and that could mean up to 15 years in prison for possession.


Chimney Fire Displaces Five Clarksburg Residents

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

The fire started n the chimney and expanded into roof.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Five people are displaced after a fire significantly damaged a portion of their River Road home early Tuesday morning.

Firefighters responded to the home owned by Britni Maxwell at 540 River Rd. for a report of a chimney fire at about 12:30 a.m.

The 911 call was placed by Maxwell's cousin after the two women and three children escaped the home. There were no injuries.

The cell phone call had to be initially redirected and by the time they arrived, the blaze had expanded into a structure fire in the roof.

However, firefighters were able to get the flames under control within 15 minutes, according to Fire Chief Carlyle "Chip" Chesbro. Firefighters remained on scene until about 4 a.m.

"The fire was burning alongside the chimney at the roof line," Chesbro said Tuesday afternoon. "Once the trucks got there, we were able to knock it down quickly."

The Fire Department attacked the flames from the inside while mutual aid from Stamford, Vt., assisted from the outside and supplied water. The North Adams Fire Department was on standby.

"The chimney caused the fire. It was in disrepair. But luckily it was external," Chesbro said and added that it is important for residents to keep a close eye on the condition of their chimneys.

The roof to that section of the house was severely damaged and by Tuesday afternoon family friends had already put a tarp over it to protect it. A larger section of the home was undamaged.

The house is insured but it is unclear when the family will be able to move back in. They are currently staying with family.

Chesbro said that once the damaged section is boarded up and utilities are secured, they "should be able to live in it."

Bomb Squad Detonates Device in Clarksburg

Staff Reports

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The state police hazardous unit exploded a suspicious device discovered at a Clarksburg home on Tuesday.

"They detonated a device that appeared to be a homemade IED," said Chief Michael Williams. The device was taken to the sandbanks behind the Senior Center on Cross Road and blown up shortly before noon. The blast reportedly shook the center.

Williams said the residents of the home on Middle Road discovered the device on the property. The bomb squad was contacted to investigate and "they determined that they were just going to do a detonation because they didn't want to transport it for safety reasons."

He described as looking like "something somebody made." Nothing further of a suspicious nature was found or removed, said Williams.

The state fire marshal's office confirmed the bomb squad was called for report of an explosive device at the Middle Road home at about 9 a.m. and arrived to assist Clarksburg police.

"They found a device that they felt needed to be removed from the home and rendered it safe," said Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal's office. Mieth said the term IED, or improvised explosive device, means it was not a military-made device.

This is the third time in three years a hazardous unit has been called to North Berkshire. The first was in May 2008 after a bank robber dropped what appeared to be an explosive device on the sidewalk in front of Hoosac Bank in North Adams. The device was detonated at the gravel bank off Curran Highway. Investigators believed the device was military-grade C4 based on images taken by the squad's robot.

The second time was this past December when a large black gym bag was spotted under Veterans Memorial Bridge. The squad took X-rays of the bag and cleared it as safe. It was full of dirty clothes and had been stolen from a local laundromat.

Tags: bomb      

Stolen Property Being Returned to Owners

Staff Reports

LENOX, Mass. — The items held as evidence in the case against burglary kingpin Stefan Veremko are being released to their owners.

The Lenox Police Department has been holding hundreds of items seized in November 2009 from Veremko's home, vehicle and areas where he had discarded the property. Veremko's monthslong spree across three states ended when an off-duty officer spotted him fleeing a building - with a pillowcase. 

Multiple police agencies were investigating the break-ins, which stretched from Southern Vermont to South County. As a result, Veremko and accomplice Tara Malloy were arrested. The recent conclusion of the case convicting Veremko and giving him five- to seven-year state prison sentence allows police the opportunity to return the seized evidence to the many victims involved with this case, said Chief Stephen E. O'Brien.

Many people came to the Lenox Town Hall on Nov. 19, 2009, to view the vast array of items. Some were able to identify items that indeed belonged to them. While conducting this process, during the exit interview, these victims were asked to provide a phone number at which they could be reached at the conclusion of the case.

Within the next several days, the victims who identified property will be receiving a call from the Lenox Police to arrange for the release of their property. All of the property that was identified will be returned to its rightful owner. For victims from the states of Vermont and New York, their property will be released to the police agency having jurisdiction over the crime. The out-of-state agency will make a determination if that property may be released or if it will remain held pending future criminal action against Veremko and Malloy in their states.

"We are asking for everyone's patience as we attempt to relinquish property in an orderly fashion to be certain that each and every victim recoups their loss," said O'Brien. "We also thank everyone involved for their patience as this case made its way through the criminal court system."

Tags: Veremko, burglary, break-ins      
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