Lanesborough Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Lanesborough woman pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Friday to embezzling nearly $50,000 over a period of two years.
Elizabeth Hakes, 48, admitted to guilt on two counts of larceny over $1,200 by a single scheme related to embezzling funds from Berkshire Works and the Austen Riggs Center.
The Berkshire district attorney's office requested 18 months of incarceration and two years of probation following. Defense counsel requested a suspended sentence and two years' probation. The state's sentence guidelines call for up to two years of incarceration.
Judge John Agostini sentenced her to two years at the House of Corrections, with one of those years being suspended, and two years of probation following.
Hakes managed federal grant funds for job creation programs at Berkshire Works, the regional office of the state's employment board now known as the MassHire Berkshire Career Center. She used approximately $21,000 of that for personal use between May 2016 and August 2017. Hakes then embezzled approximately $26,000 from Austen Riggs Center while working at the Stockbridge psychiatric center between October 2017 and October 2018.
"This was an abuse of taxpayer money intended to help residents improve their lives. Those who work in the public sector have the responsibility to use taxpayer's funds to strengthen the community they live in," said District Attorney Andrea Harrington. "Crimes like this undermine the public’s trust in government. My office prosecutes these 'white-collar' crimes with the same vigor as any other type of crime."
Firefighters Knock Down Fire at Lanesborough Truck Repair Shop
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A swift response knocked down a small fire in a garage bay at Village Truck Sales on Thursday evening.
A motorist notified police that he believed there was a fire at the Route 8 business and Fire Chief Charlie Durfee said the call of a structure fire came in at 5:39 p.m.
"The first engines to pull up on scene were Lanesborough and Cheshire's Engine 2, because they come for us right away, and they found a small fire inside the [bay] door on the left," he said. "We got in and knocked it down quick. ... There was more smoke than anything."
The blaze was contained to the inside corner in the northern-most bay and Durfee estimated the damage at probably not more than $5,000. A few items, including a toolbox and some car parts, were pulled out of the damaged bay. The area above the door was blackened from smoke but did not incur any fire damage.
Durfee said the cause is still under investigation but he's considering it an accidental fire.
"They got lucky," he said. "The guys did a great job."
The business is outside the water district so both Cheshire and Dalton sent tankers and Lanesborough set up its pool as a water supply. Lanesborough Ambulance, Lanesborough and Cheshire Police and state police from the Cheshire barracks also provided aid.
The busy highway was closed and traffic detoured over Old State Road for about an hour. The road was reopened at about 6:45 p.m.
Camper Destroyed By Fire at Lanesborough Campground
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A camper at Mount Greylock Campsite Park was completely destroyed by fire Friday evening, on the first day of the season.
According to Fire Chief Charlie Durfee, the owner of the camper had arrived that day, set up the camper, put her stuff inside, and then left to go shopping. While she was out, the camper caught fire and the fire took off from there to a point firefighters had no chance of saving it.
"There was black smoke billowing in the sky, fully involved, we called Hancock Fire Department for their tanker. We had their tanker, our tanker, and our two engines," Durfee said.
Durfee said there was a threat of attached propane tanks and Capt. Cody Sanderson had arrived first, removed those, and moved them away from the scene. But the fire had already been going too strong that firefighters could just put it out with no chance to save it.
The camper was toward the top of the hill of the Scott Road campground, with a narrow dirt road leading to it. There are no hydrants anywhere nearby.
"The challenges are, there is no water. We are up in the middle of nowhere. And campers are like a mobile home, they go up like that. It's minutes and they are gone. Nine out of 10 times you will never ever save a camper or a mobile home fire," Durfee said.
Campground owner Gordon Hubbard said the owner does have insurance on the camper. Interestingly, this is the first year Mount Greylock required all who lease sites to have insurance on their campers whereas before it was optional. Hubbard said in this case, the owner has carried insurance on it for years.
Nonetheless, the fire is "devastating" for the owner, Hubbard said, because the woman had lost everything she had put in it.
"Everything she has in there is gone, a total loss," Durfee said.
Durfee said he doesn't know what caused the blaze but if he had to guess, it was probably electrical.
"We'll never know what caused it. It is so burnt, we'll never know," Durfee said.
Hubbard praised the work the volunteer fire department did given the circumstances, saying they arrived quickly and put out the fire.
Animal Cruelty Case Continued Without Finding
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local man was given a continuance without a finding after killing a 10-month-old puppy.
Coty Dakin, 29, had entered to an admission to sufficient facts plea to a single county of animal cruelty on March 12. The case was continued without a finding for one year. Police had accused Dakin of crushing the skull of his girlfriend's 10-month old Chihuahua, Chichi, in Lanesborough in 2017.
Police said on Nov. 20, 2017 officers were dispatched to the girlfriend's home for a disturbance during which it was reported that Dakin had killed his girlfriend's dog. Police said Dakin was asked about the incident and he claimed he kicked a chair into the wall and accidentally killed the dog.
"He explained that he had found that the dogs made a mess in the living room and he was cleaning it up when he became angry. The dogs ran and hid behind a reclining chair at which time he kicked the chair into the wall. He stated he heard one of the dogs yelp so he moved the chair away from the wall to find the dog bloody and not breathing," reads the police report.
However, officers sent the puppy's body to Forensic Veterinary Investigations in Boston for necrology and Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore said the injuries did not align with that story.
"The constellation of injuries in this 10-month-old Chihuahua puppy are consistent with manual crushing of the skull during ineffective 'wringing' of her neck (manual dislocation of the head from the neck by applying torsional forces). In my opinion, rather than dislocating the head from the first cervical vertebra, the skull crushed and shattered under considerable manual force," the report reads.
"The shattering of the bone at the base of the skull pierced into the oropharynx causing the bleeding from the nose and mouth. The shattering bone at the skull compromising the inner/middle left ear cause the bleeding out of the left ear ...
"In my opinion, Chichi's death was accompanied by intense pain and suffering."
The multi-page report debunked Dakin's story and Smith-Blackmore determined that the injuries "are inconsistent with an accident crushing injury between a piece of furniture and the wall."
Friends reported trying to get Dakin to seek psychiatric help and witnesses who were there that day cited a few things that did not quite seem to back Dakin's story, such as a lack of blood in the supposed chair area and the number and severity of the injuries to the dog.
Police returned to question Dakin further about the incident and the findings but Dakin maintained his story. However, police said that between Dakin's admission of kicking the chair into the wall, admitting to having anger problems and "coming to a boiling point that day," admitting he did not want the dog in the first place, and the necropsy report, warranted the charge.
The case has been going through the district court process for about a year and ultimately Judge Jennifer Tyne agreed to the continuance without a finding.
In a follow-up letter, the owner of the dog wrote about the pain of losing Chichi and the impact it had on her children.
"There's not much I could say that could describe the hurt I felt then and still do, it isn't something that can just be erased and whereas I've felt so many emotions in this matter from anger to loss, sadness, and even guilt. Still, I feel that no judgment is going to bring back what we lost, it isn't going to fix what's already been broken," she wrote.
Lanesborough Police Seeking Info on Vape Shop Break-in
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Police are asking looking for help in identifying a group of individuals who broke into Uniq Vape on South Main Street and stole upward of $9,000 worth of products.
Police were notified of a burglar alarm at about 3:10 a.m. on Wednesday. Upon arrival, police found a side door kicked in with two muddy footprints on it. The store was in disarray and a glass display was destroyed.
According to police, video footage shows two parties checking the doors at about 2:49 a.m. and then returning 25 minutes later and kicking in the door. Those two were then joined by four others who ran through the store taking items. Those involved got into a vehicle and left and a K9 search was unable to track them.
"We reviewed the security camera footage and observed at 2:39 a.m. what appears to be two males, one wearing black and/or grey Adidas brand striped pants and sweatshirt, and the other wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt with a red Under Armour logo approached the building and attempt to gain entry through the front windows. After failing to gain entry from the front, the two parties walked around the building trying other windows before appearing to leave the area," reads the police report filed by Officer Ben Garner.
"A short time later at 3:04 a.m. the same previously described parties return to the building and one kicked in the south-facing side door. Immediately after the two males enter the building, four more parties ran from behind the BP gas station directly to the south and entered the building also. All six parties took various items from the store before exiting through the same door and running back behind the BP gas station."
Store owner Syed Quaseem provided police with surveillance footage of the incident and authorities are asking anyone with information to contact them at 413-443-4107.