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EV Worldwide Partner Guilty Of Fraud

Andy McKeever

Updated December 1, 2011 at 4:11 p.m. : Christopher Willson was sentenced on Tuesday to one year and one day in federal prison and must pay $100,000 in restitution to the Federal Transit Administration and $215,138 to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority by U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel in Boston, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

BOSTON — Christopher Willson, who dazzled Pittsfield in 1999 with promises of bringing 1,000 jobs to former General Electric land, was convicted Tuesday for taking the money and running.

The former chief scientist and business partner with EV Worldwide LLC from 2000 to 2005 was convicted in federal court Tuesday on defrauding the federal government of more than $700,000, according to multiple reports from The Associated Press. The conviction was on six counts of wire fraud.

EV Worldwide received up to  $1.35 million in federal grant money to start up a company developing electric batteries for public buses. The company later reeled in additional grant money. However, the money required an equal match.

EV Worldwide was later accused of doctoring paperwork to show that match. The verdict found Willson guilty of obtaining more than $700,000 after submitting 10 fake or inflated invoices that claimed to match the grant money.

Willson faces a maximum of 120 years in prison and will return to court for sentencing on Oct. 6.

EV Worldwide had the city buzzing in the early part of the millennium with the grant money. Pittsfield officials jumped on board with the idea by granting the company an additional $250,000 from the GE Economic Development Fund to move into a vacant industrial building — the GL&V Development Center at 448 Hubbard Ave.

The company was going to develop a nickel-hydrogen battery to feed into what was, at the time, expected to be a booming market in electric and hybrid vehicles under its subsidiary ElectraStor LLC.

The company never got off the ground.

In 2001, residents saw the first signs of trouble when the state began probing the city's grant agreement during an investigation of the city's finances. The other shoe dropped in 2008; then EV Worldwide CEO Michael J. Armitage was charged with fraud and money laundering.

In 2010, Armitage signed a plea agreement admitting to misusing up to $4 million in federal grant money between 2000 and 2006.

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Former Adams Officer Sentenced On Child Porn Charges

Andy McKeever

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A former Adams police sergeant was sentenced Wednesday to two years in jail on child pornography charges.

Alan Vigiard was sentenced in Berkshire Superior Court on 10 counts of knowingly possessing visual material of a child depicted in sexual conduct. Judge Daniel Ford sentenced Vigiard to two years at the Berkshire County House of Corrections on nine of those charges.

On the remaining count he was placed on five years probation with the condition that he turn in all computers and/or media storage devices, not possess any pornography, undergo counseling, register as a sex offender and obey all probate court orders.

Vigiard was investigated after a folder with pornographic images was found on a CD sent to the district attorneys. Vigiard was caught viewing pornography on a police computer at the station on Oct. 29, 2009.

He was placed on administrative leave and then resigned. As of last year, he was receiving retirement benefits accrued during his service but will lose those if the retirement board determines his crimes were linked to his employment.

He pled guilty to the charges last month. A single count of lasciviously posing a child in a state of nudity was dismissed at the request of the commonwealth.

The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office and members of the Adams Police Department.

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Superior Court Briefs: June 13 - June 15

Andy McKeever

Cases heard before Judge May Lou Rup on Monday, June 13.

Mackenzie Tarjick
, 33, of Peru had not a guilty plea entered on her behalf on one count of reckless endangerment of a child.

Tarjick was released on personal recognizance on the condition that she have no contact with the alleged victim. The incident is alleged to have occurred in Windsor between March 1, 2006 and April 30, 2010 involving a 14-year-old girl.

Rafael Martinez, 51, of North Adams had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of distribution of methadone, drug violation within a school zone and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Martinez was released on personal recognizance. The incidents allegedly occurred in North Adams between November 1, 2010 and November 25, 2010.

Cases heard before Judge May Lou Rup on Tuesday, June 14.

Mark Welch
, 44, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Welch was released on personal recognizance. It is alleged that he conspired to sell drugs between October 14, 2010 and October 21, 2010.

Lawrence Posey, 33, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on seven counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Posey was released on $1,000 bail. The incidents allegedly occurred in Pittsfield, Dalton and New Ashford between June 1, 2010 and June 8, 2010.

Jody Perkins, 41, of Pittsfield had not a not guilty plea entered on her behalf on one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Perkins was released on personal recognizance. IT is alleged that she conspired to sell drugs on October 14, 2010 and October 21, 2010.

Shannon Luczynski, 30, of North Adams had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on four counts of oxymorphone - his second offense - and one count of drug violation within a park zone.

Luczynski was released on personal recognizance. The incidents are alleged to have occurred in North Adams between Jan. 28 and Feb. 10.

Cases heard before Judge May Lou Rup on Wednesday, June 15.

Tracy Thompson, 49, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts of distribution of cocaine, drug violation in a park zone and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Thompson was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $100 bail. The charges stem from incidents that occurred in Pittsfield on December 10, 2010.

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Arsonist Targets 8 Buildings in Great Barrington

Nichole Dupont

Update: Thursday, 10 p.m.: Red Crow News reports that artist David Pixley, 62, was arraigned Thursday morning in Southern Berkshire District Court on on two of counts of arson, five of attempting to burn buildings, and three of attempting to burn vehicles.

Pixley is being held on $50,000 bail after being caught by police in the early morning hours allegedly trying to set a fire at TD Banknorth. Pixley allgedy fled the scene, according to Red Crow News, and police gave chase, taking him into custody at his 20 Hollenbeck Ave. apartment.

Update Thursday, 10:48 a.m.: Police have arrested a suspect in connection with at least two of Wednesday's arson fires in Great Barrington. The unidentified man was arrested at about 2 a.m. on Thursday morning when he was found in the parking lot of TD Banknorth on 271 Main St., allegedly in the act of trying to start yet another fire.

Debris behind Barrington Outfitters. The back of the building sustained damage after someone set fire to it.

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Eight buildings in the downtown and three motor vehicles were targeted by an unknown arsonist early Wednesday morning. Police are looking for a man wearing a dark-colored poncho and black North Face winter gloves.

Fires were set at Barrington Outfitters on Main Street and Lee Bank; combustibles were found in the other locations but no fires set, according to authorities.

The blazes occurred at about 1:40 a.m., according to a statement from Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell, and were brought under control by the Fire Department and four mutual aid towns. No one was injured in either case.  

"Police investigation determined that the fires were set. Five other buildings, Shopper's Guide, Foster's Hardware, Toole Insurance Agency, Berkshire Block and Gypsy Joynt, locations adjacent to the Foster's Hardware parking lot, were also targeted as well as the Tune Street building on Railroad Street with combustibles and flammable liquids, but were not set on fire. Three vehicles in the Foster's parking lot had flammable liquid applied to them, but were not burned."

Barrington Outfitters was closed earlier this morning while police and contractors assessed the damage, which was done to the back of the store. Police and the owners, the Druckers, declined to comment on the blaze.

The second fire started in a vacant store front in the Lee Bank building that was left unlocked. Fire Chief Harry Jennings used the town's reverse 911 system to notify business owners about clearing debris and securing their businesses properly at night.

Police picked up a homeless man, 19-year-old Matthew Wilcox of Egremont Plain Road, who they said broke into the storage shed behind Barrington Outfitters. According to the town statement, police do not believe Wilcox was involved in the fires but he has not been ruled out. He was arraigned this morning in Southern Berkshire District Court on charges of breaking and entering and trespassing.

Police are working with the state police Crime Scene Services, troopers assigned to the state fire marshal's office and district attorney's office, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. They canvassed the downtown area and distributed a photo of the suspect.

The fire marshal's Arson Reward Program offers up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information is asked to call 800-682-9229 or Police Chief William Walsh at 413-528-0306.

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North Adams Fire Damages Apartment

Andy McKeever

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An apartment fire at 585 State Road on Wednesday afternoon has left a couple temporarily homeless and shut down traffic on the busy highway for nearly an hour.

The fire was contained to the Apartment B duplex on the second floor but a second apartment with a single occupant suffered smoke damage. No one was injured and all the occupants evacuated safely.

When firefighters arrived they were unsure if there was anybody still in the building. The responders broke into two crews – one to search and the other to extinguish the fire in the second-floor bedroom, according to Fire Director Stephen Meranti.

"We had multiple calls on it so we call in all off-duty personnel," Meranti said. "The guys did a great job knocking it down quickly."

Utilities were also disconnected and firefighters protected the first floor with tarps to prevent water damage.

The building was being checked by Building Inspector William Meranti but was not believed to have suffered any structural damage. A fire watch was being set for the night.

The Red Cross was also called in for assistance.

The road, Route 2, was closed for about an hour between West Liquors and Ashton Avenue, although limited traffic was allowed through.

The fire was reported at 1:15 p.m. by multiple callers, at least one of whom described flames coming out of the building.

While on scene, the department also received calls of an alarm on Frederickson Street and a kitchen fire on Union Street. Wednesday morning the department also responded to a kitchen fire at Mohawk Forest.

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