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Former Great Barrington Assistant Tax Collector Charged With Embezzlement

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A former Great Barrington assistant tax collected is being charged with embezzlement after allegedly stealing more than $100,000 in excise and property taxes.
 
Deborah Ball, 63, of Great Barrington was arraigned in Superior Court on Wednesday for what officials are calling a "Ponzi scheme." Ball is accused of taking real estate and excise taxes residents and business owners paid in cash and attempted to cover it up by applying portions of check payments made by others. The scheme was allegedly uncovered in 2018 through an audit by Scanlon and Associates.
 
"The Town of Great Barrington will continue to work closely with our auditors and state and local authorities until this matter is resolved. The town has implemented proper controls to prevent this type of incident from happening again in the future.  Regarding the current incident, the Town is bonded and insured for losses such as this," reads a statement from Town Manager Mark Pruhenski.
 
Ball was indicted on July 31 on charges of embezzlement by a municipal officer and larceny. Officials suspect the embezzlement had been ongoing for at least three years. 
 
"As public officials, we have a responsibility to represent our communities and keep their best interests in mind, but Ms. Ball failed in that critical duty," District Attorney Andrea Harrington said in a prepared statement. "In bringing these charges, we are holding Ms. Ball accountable for betraying the trust that the community
placed in her."
 
The district attorney's office said that in 2018 Scanlon and Associates first noticed discrepancies and the State Police assigned to the district attorney's office and Great Barrington police began investigating. 
 
Ball had worked with the town for close to 35 years and was played on administrative leave on Feb. 21 and separated from employment on March 15.
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Lee Woman Seriously Injured in Stockbridge Road Accident

Staff Reports
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Police say a pot-impaired teenager seriously injured a young Lee woman on Wednesday night when his car hit her on Stockbridge Road.
 
Police say 19-year-old Khali Zabian was northbound when her car veered off the highway and struck guardrails near Fountain Pond. She called 911 to report the accident. 
 
But when Officers Timothy Ullrich and Elias Casey arrived, they found that Zabian had been struck by an oncoming car and had been thrown some distance from her vehicle. 
 
A good Samaritan who had stopped to help her told police that the other vehicle "suddenly came upon them," according to the police report, and "they attempted to run to safety but the female operator was struck."
 
Zabian was taken by Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. 
 
Police say the driver of the second vehicle is a 17-year-old from Great Barrington who also had a juvenile passenger with him. Ullrich charged the teen with operating under the influence causing serious bodily harm. "Police have probable cause to believe he was impaired after having used marijuana," according to the police press release, and that field sobriety tests were performed at the scene. The boy's name is being withheld because of his age. 
 
Both vehicles sustained significant damage, Zabian's from hitting the guardrails and the boy's from hitting Zabian. 
 
The incident is being investigated by the Police Department and state police Accident Reconstruction & Analysis, Crime Scene Services and detectives from the district attorney's office. The Fire Department, Stockbridge and Monterey officers and state troopers from the Lee barracks also assisted.  
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North Adams Police Investigating Feces Vandalism

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Authorities are investigating a disturbing incident that occurred early Wednesday morning at Brayton Hill Apartments.
 
According to Facebook posts made by friends and neighbors of the victim, someone smeared feces over her door and air conditioner and left a pile on her deck. 
 
The victim, a single black woman with small children who is not being named, told friends that there had been a loud party in the apartment next door on Tuesday night and a racial slur could be heard repeatedly. That has lead some to believe that it could be a hate crime.
 
The perpetrator was reportedly caught on video by security cameras at the housing complex around 3 a.m. 
 
Police on Thursday offered more information in that officers responded to the 
 
The Facebook post also averred that the perpetrator was wearing clothing similar to that of one of the men at the party, but none of this information could be confirmed. Another poster, who says the gathering was at her home, denied there were any racist elements and said she was told by management that the suspect appeared hours after her guests left.
 
Police Lt. Anthony Beverly on Wednesday stated that police were actively investigating the incident but referred any further questions to the chief of police or the district attorney's office. 
 
According to Facebook posts made by friends and neighbors of the victim, someone smeared feces over her door and air conditioner and left a pile on her deck. 
 
The victim, a single black woman with small children who is not being named, told friends that there had been a loud party in the apartment next door on Tuesday night and a racial slur could be heard repeatedly. That has lead some to believe that it could be a hate crime.
 
The perpetrator was reportedly caught on video by security cameras at the housing complex around 3 a.m. 
 
Police on Thursday offered more information in that officers were dispatched to Brayton Hill at about 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
 
The responding officer and detectives assigned to the case are working with the Brayton Hill property manager, Millenia Housing Management, to determine if a suspect or suspects can be identified. 
 
Police Chief Jason Wood said the department also is working in collaboration with District Attorney Andrea Harrington's office, including investigating possible racist motivations for the act. 
 
"The district attorney's office condemns this behavior,” said Harrington in a statement forwarded by Wood. "We will use the full force of the law to hold accountable those who undermine the peace and safety of our community."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard on Wednesday night said was aware of the incident and police investigation.
 
The Facebook post also averred that the perpetrator was wearing clothing similar to that of one of the men at the party, but none of this information could be confirmed. Another poster, who says the gathering was at her home, denied there were any racist elements and said she was told by management that the suspect appeared hours after her guests left.
 
Wood's statement said law enforcement will pursue every lead while ensuring that every citizen's constitutional rights are upheld, protected, and respected in the pursuit of justice for the victim of this reprehensible crime.
 
Outrage over the incident was immediate as the post was shared with community groups. A GoFundMe was set up to help the victim purchase a new air conditioner, security cameras in addition to the facility's and new locks, as well as to provide for moving costs should that become necessary. 
 
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the North Adams Police Department at 413-664-4945.
 
Write-thru at 2:36 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8, including statement from Wood and Harrington.
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Deer Causes Accident on Route 2

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A deer was killed Friday afternoon after a collission with two Jeeps. 
 
The accident occurred at about 3:30 p.m. near Galvin Road. The deer was attempting to cross Route 2 when it was struck by a dark gray Jeep Patriot heading east. The Patriot knocked the deer in a maroon Jeep Grand Cherokee heading west. 
 
The deer ended up under the Galvin Road sign on the north side of the road. Both vehicles were able to turn off the highway until first-responders arrived. No one in the two vehicles were injured. 
 
The Grand Cherokee incurred damage to its hood and lights on the passenger side. The Patriot had more extensive damage to its front end and its windshield was smashed on the driver's side. The Patriot was taken away by Cariddi Auto and  police were contacting someone who could dispose of the deer. 
 
North Adams and Williamstown Police, North Adams Fire and Northern Berkshire Ambulance responded to the scene.
 
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Pittsfield Teen Rescued From Old Water Tank at Springside

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team consists of members from various departments throughout the region performing the rescues all over.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A teenager fell into an old water tank at Springside Park and had to be extricated by first responders.
 
Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said the teenager was with some friends in the area when he fell into a previously collapsed section of the tank. He plummeted some 25 feet and could not get out. After about an hour, he was extricated and transported to Berkshire Medical Center. Noyes said the boy's injuries are unknown right now but they appeared to be minor.
 
"It was really well done. All of our people did a great job," Noyes said of the rescue.
 
The tank has been fenced off by the city but teenagers are still known to go there. It was previously a reservoir that hasn't been used in years. The tank was empty when the 16-year-old fell inside.
 
Noyes said paramedic Carly Falone of Action Ambulance sat at the hole and talked with the teen to keep him calm as firefighters began setting up rescue operations. Noyes said the teenager reported he had trouble breathing and a broken wrist but he didn't know if there were any injuries beyond that.
 
The Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team was called in, which includes several members of Pittsfield Fire two of whom were responding to the incident. Firefighters were able to start the rescue operation as they waited for the team's arrival.
 
"We are up to seven or eight active members," Noyes said of the city's membership on the technical rescue team. "Today shows why you have to have members tech trained."
 
The technical team consists of first-responders from all over Berkshire County who respond when needed. They brought a trailer full of equipment and set up a tripod system with ropes in order to lift the teenager out. Noyes said two members of the team, including a city firefighter, were lowered into the tank and were able to prepare the boy medically to be lifted out. The whole rescue took about an hour.
 
"It was efficiently done but it feels like a long time," Noyes said. "There are so many safeties and checks."
 
In a situation like that, Noyes said the first-responders need to be safe because a second person getting hurt in a situation like that makes matters exponentially harder. The additional length of time taken to ensure those safety measures are in place feels even longer for an injured patient, but in this case, the teenager was able to remain relatively calm throughout as he continued to engage with paramedics and firefighters in conversation.
 
Those responding to the incident were Engine 2, Engine 3, Tower 1, Engine 6, Rescue 1, Truck 10, and a six-wheeler, which is a piece of specialty equipment the department has on hand for such needs. Pittsfield Police officers had dispersed people in the area and secured the scene for firefighters and the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team performed the rescue. Action Ambulance transported the patient.
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