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Two Arrested For Armed Robbery of Pittsfield Gas Station

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Lipton Mart on South Street was robbed Tuesday afternoon.
 
Police say at 3:50 p.m. the dispatch received a 911 call reporting an armed robbery at 460 South Street and later arrested Lionel Ortiz, 34, of Vincent Thaxter, 37, for the crime. Additional charges may be pending and both suspects are due in Central Berkshire District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
 
Patrol units arrived immediately and members of the detective, drug, and crime scene unit followed. Officers obtained a vehicle description, direction of travel, and partial license plates. Backup units located the suspect vehicle at the intersection of South Street and Gamwell Avenue, just over the bridge from the Lipton Mart. 
 
The motor vehicle was stopped and probable cause was developed for the arrest of the subjects.
 
Police did not say what, if anything, was taken from the gas station. Nor did police say if a weapon had been found.
 
The armed robbery comes after nearly a month without one. Between November and January there was a spree of a dozen before two men were arrested for half of the crimes. Since then, the robberies had come to a halt. 
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Superior Court Briefs: Feb. 16 - Feb. 18

Staff Reports
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
 
Edward O'Bert, 34,of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to three counts of rape and single counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery.
 
He was ordered to serve concurrent four to six year sentences at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the rape and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon charges. He was given concurrent two and a half year sentences on the assault and battery charge.
 
O'Bert assaulted a 23-year-old woman in Pittsfield on December 1, 2011 and April 16, 2013.
 
Cases heard before Judge John Agostini on Thursday, Feb. 18.
 
Joseph Barnes, 29, of Pittsfield had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on a single count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute - his second offense. 
 
He was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $5,000 bail. The charge stems from a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on Jan. 6.
 
Jerrod Kendig, 35, of Dalton pleaded guilty to a single count of larceny over $250 in connection with theft from Walmart in North Adams on April 12, 2015 and single counts of breaking and entering in the daytime and larceny over $250 in a break in at the First Congregational Church in North Adams on September 25, 2015.
 
He was ordered to serve concurrent two and a half years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.
 
Richard Smith, 25, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on single counts possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to violate drug laws, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, armed career felon, possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number, illegal ownership of a firearm, improper storage of a firearm, possession of a stun gun and possession of heroin.
 
He was ordered to be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $5,000 bail. The charges stem from the execution of a search warrant at his home on January 5, 2016.
 
Michelle Weed, 38, of Pittsfield had not guilty pleas entered on her behalf on single counts of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
 
She was ordered to be held at the Hampden County House of Correction on $5,000 bail. The charges stem from a motor vehicle stop in Pittsfield on Jan. 11.
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Two Pittsfield Men Plead Not Guilty To Armed Robbery Spree

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two men accused of a half dozen armed robberies entered not guilty pleas in court on Thursday.
 
George Bliss Jr., 30, and Damian Ivas, 40, both of Pittsfield were brought before Judge John Agostini in Berkshire Superior Court. Bliss had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on six counts of armed robbery while masked. Ivas had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on six counts of armed robbery while masked and single counts of assault by means of a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest. 
 
Bliss was ordered to be held on $100,000 bail while Ivas was ordered to be held on $50,000.
 
The two are accused of robbing the Getty on Elm Street, Dawes Avenue Variety, Peaslee's on Wahconah, Subway on Tyler Street, Angelina's on Elm Street, and Cumberland Farms on Dalton Avenue between December 23, 2015 and January 24, 2016. The six robberies were part of a spree in which there were a dozen in a two months. 
 
Bliss was arrested on Jan. 26 while Ivas remained at large until his arrest on Feb. 10. 
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Pittsfield Man Among Caretakers Charged With Defrauding State Medical System

BOSTON – A personal care attendant (PCA) and four PCA surrogates have been charged with allegedly defrauding the state's Medicaid program of more than $230,000 by falsely billing for services not rendered and double billing in a number of different cases, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

Among those indicted is Frederick Phillips, 55, of Pittsfield, who allegedly stole $47,000 from MassHealth by double-billing for PCA and adult foster care services simultaneously between March 2011 and November 2013. Phillips was the PCA surrogate for his disabled brother.

The matter was referred by MassHealth after it received information that Phillips was both the PCA surrogate and AFC caretaker for his brother and purposely participated in and billed for both programs, in violation of MassHealth regulations.

A Berkshire County Grand Jury returned the indictment on Feb. 10.

Phillips was indicted on one count of Medicaid false claims and one count of larceny over $250 by false pretenses. He was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on personal recognizance. Phillips is due back in court on May 2 for a pre-trial hearing.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Evelyn Tang and was investigated by Senior Investigator Michael Russo and Investigator April Waterhouse, all of Healey's Medicaid Fraud Division, with assistance from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG).

A total of 18 indictments were returned by Plymouth, Berkshire, Essex, and Worcester County grand juries and are the result of criminal investigations conducted by Healey's Medicaid Fraud Division. A criminal complaint, including charges of neglecting a disabled person, has also been issued against a PCA who will be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on March 2.

The cases include allegations of billing MassHealth for services that were not provided, double billing for PCA and adult foster care (AFC) services, and charging for home care when a patient was hospitalized, along with several other schemes.

"MassHealth provides critical healthcare services for people who otherwise cannot afford them," said Healey in a statement. "We allege that these individuals exploited this system and defrauded taxpayers, while at the same time diverting resources from those in need."

The MassHealth PCA Program helps people with chronic or long-term disabilities live independently. The program provides funds to pay PCAs who help patients with activities of daily living while members receiving the services act as the PCA's employer. By regulation, PCA services cannot be provided while a MassHealth member is admitted to an inpatient facility or nursing home.

MassHealth members who are unable to manage the hiring, training and firing of PCAs themselves may pick a "surrogate" to act for them (typically a family member or legal guardian). MassHealth does not allow surrogates to provide PCA services, and does not pay them to act as surrogates.

The other individuals charged are:

Crystal Clark, 36, of Haverhill; indicted by an Essex County Grand Jury for allegedly she submitting fraudulent timesheets as the PCA surrogate for her disabled son. Authorities allege that she billed MassHealth more than $64,000 for services that were not provided.

Mary Yost, 53, of Middleborough; indicted by a Plymouth County Grand Jury for allegedly double-billing MassHealth for more than $86,000 by billing for PCA and AFC services given to her disabled son simultaneously between May 2009 and April 2014.

Scott Gibeault, 49, of Southbridge; indicted by a Worcester for allegedly submitting fraudulent timesheets indicating PCA services were provided by individuals who were out of state, working other jobs, or unable to provide service because the consumer was admitted to an inpatient facility.

Tamekha Lewis-Sturrup, 29, of Dorchester; a criminal complaint was issued against her in Boston Municipal Court  for allegedly fraudulently billing for approximately $8,600 in PCA services not rendered and for failing to provide services to a consumer resulting in hospitalization.

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Vermont Drug Sweep Nets Two North Adams Women

RUTLAND, Vt. — Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies made a massive drug sweep in southwestern Vermont on Tuesday that has resulted in 20 arrests so far, including two North Adams, Mass., women.

One individual is still being sought and 10 more defendants are facing federal drug charges and will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office as a result of arrests that took place during the past several weeks.  

Arrested were Cassie Morse, 26, and Shari Perras, 24, both of North Adams, both of whom are facing heroin charges.

All of these arrests were the culmination of enforcement efforts over the past year, specifically targeting those individuals involved in the distribution of illicit drugs. Drug enforcement efforts continue to focus on the heroin/opiate epidemic and distribution networks operating in Vermont communities.

The arrests were announced on Wednesday morning at a press conference in Rutland.

"These arrests involved people coming to Vermont from out of state and bringing heroin, and bringing crack but they also involve the local infrastructure that facilitates the sale of drugs in Vermont," said U.S. Attorney for Vermont Eric Miller at Wednesday's briefing. "Unless we continue to go after both of those groups, we're not going to be effective in combating this crisis."

Dozens of arrests have been made in the past 18 months of Vermonters and out-of-staters, mostly from Brooklyn, N.Y., he said, that have affected a loose organization of drug distribution.

"We think we made a significant dent in the organizations through these joint efforts," Miller said.

The Vermont Drug Task Force has worked collaboratively with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and local and county law enforcement agencies in southwestern Vermont to include state and federal prosecutors.

Arraignments will be held in the Bennington County Superior Court on Feb. 29 at 1 p.m and Rutland County Superior Court on March 7 at 1 p.m.

Chelsea Hill, 24 of Rutland, and Sherrie Fitzgerald, 52 of Rutland, will be arraigned at Rutland County Superior Court, Criminal Division on Feb. 19, at 1 p.m.

Charges listed below are single counts unless otherwise indicated:

State Defendants

  • Colleen M. Keefe, 43: sale of cocaine
  • Robert S. Grady, 34: sale of heroin, three counts
  • Timothy B. Euber, 38: sale of heroin
  • Casey Clifford, 22: sale of heroin, two counts; sale of fentanyl
  • Anthony Courcelle, 21: sale of heroin
  • Daniel Pyne, 30: sale of regulated drug (oxycodone)
  • Jerry Crandall, 46: sale of cocaine, sale of regulated drug (oxycodone)
  • Cassie Morse, 26: sale of heroin, two counts
  • Candi Peters, 36: sale of heroin, two counts
  • Shari Perras, 24: sale of heroin
  • Andrew Onorato, 31: sale of heroin, two counts
  • Chelsea Hill, 24: sale of heroin, two counts; conspiracy
  • Sheri Fitzgerald, 52: sale of heroin, conspiracy
  • Spencer Mumford, 23: sale of heroin
  • Kevin Scully, 25: sale of cocaine
  • Felicia Ackley, 28: sale of cocaine, two counts
  • Christopher Nadeau, 26: sale of heroin
  • William Manfredi, 36: sale of heroin
  • Carlos Vasquez, 42: heroin trafficking, heroin transportation and conspiracy
  • John Mason, 33: sale of heroin

 
Wanted
Richard Winnie, 42: sale heroin

Federal Arrests

Kevin Williams (aka Cap, Capone), 42: sale of heroin, three counts

Jason Tiraboschi, 27: possession of a firearm

Amanda Gibbons, 31, arrested 12/31/15, Indicted 1/7/16, charged with three counts of distribution of heroin, each count carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.  

Patrick Lorenzo, 33, arrested 1/12/16, Indicted 1/20/16, charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

Candace Alberti,  33, arrested 1/19/16, indicted on 2/3/16 charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.  

Russell Gaspar, 32, arrested 1/19/16, indicted on 2/3/16 charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.  

Mark McGinnis, 37, arrested 1/21/16, indicted, 2/11/16 charged with distribution of heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

Jaiden Paige, 35, arrested 2/1/16, indicted 2/11/16, charged with distribution of heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

Jennifer Webster, 26, arrested 2/1/16, indicted 2/11/16, charged with distribution of heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

Kwasi Asante, 57, arrested 2/1/16, indicted 2/11/16, charged with distribution of heroin, carrying potential maximum sentence of 20 years.

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