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Pittsfield Businessman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Greylock Credit Union

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city real estate developer pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield of defrauding Greylock Federal Credit Union.
 
Jeffrey Pierce, 51, of Pittsfield pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to receive money through transactions of a credit union with intent to defraud the credit union and make false statements to a federal credit union.
 
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, between 2005 and 2008 a former Greylock Federal Credit Union vice president authorized some $4 million in loans and loan modifications to Pierce and his five real estate development companies. 
 
While the office didn't name the banker on Wednesday, in 2014 Michael Dicenzo pleaded guilty to related charges in the case. Dicenzo worked at Greylock as a commercial loan officer from 2004 until 2009 and faced eight counts of fraud and a single count of making false statements to federal officials.
 
The loans issued to Pierce were in violation of the credit union's policies and caused the credit union to release funds "far in excess of what Pierce and his companies could reasonably receive or repay," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 
 
In exchange, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges Pierce agreed to provide the former vice president with $134,773 in check payments to a "front company" created by the Greylock employee — those payments derived from Greylock loans —  free use of a home constructed by Pierce's companies, and free use of a vehicle — also purchased with Greylock loans. 
 
In 2010, Pierce is accused of falsely stating to Greylock that the money paid from his company to the  "front company" were payments for design work that the vice president's wife provided to Pierce for construction projects. Law enforcement said those statements were made based on the urging of the former vice president. 
 
The conspiracy charge against Pierce carries a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for Oct. 3, 2018.
     

Pittsfield Home on Highland Avenue Destroyed By Fire

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Lanesborough resident Brian Johnson happened to be driving in the area when the fire began. He shared his photos of the blaze with iBerkshires.com. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Fire destroyed a city couple's Highland Avenue home Friday afternoon.
 
Deputy Chief Andrew Stephenson said a passerby noticed the outside of the home on fire at about 3:30 and called 911. Upon arrival, firefighters found the exterior on fire.
 
"The exterior of the house, the left side, was pretty heavily involved in fire. It was obvious the fire started on the outside of the house. While crews were here, it burned into the second floor through the window. It burned up the wall, through the window, burned up to the roofline, and got up into the attic," Stephenson said.
 
Stephenson said it isn't known exactly what caused the fire but investigators have pinpointed the origin and are narrowing in on a cause. The owner was working in a woodshop in the rear of the property at the time and the house was out of his view when the fire started.
 
Neither occupant was injured in the blaze and firefighters were able to rescue two cats. However, a third cat perished in the fire. 
 
Stephenson said the homeowners declined assistance from the Red Cross and will find alternative housing on their own. He said the home suffered heavy damage and is likely considered beyond repair.
 
The department first responded with three engine companies, a ladder truck, and a deputy chief but quickly called for two more engine companies. 
 
"It was just a hot, humid day so it is hard for the crews to work. You always have to worry about heat exposure so that's why the on-duty deputy called Hinsdale rehab trailer. They come with water, a bus with air conditioning," Stephenson said.
 

The two-alarm fire was called in around 3:30 in the afternoon.
The deputy chief said the fire had burned to a point where there was little they could do to halt the damage. But he credited firefighters for their efforts in stopping the blaze quickly after arriving.
 
"They did an outstanding job. They encountered an involved full side of the house. The damage was done pretty much prior to the Fire Department getting here but they did a great job knocking it down and putting the rest of the fire out. It is pretty tough in the hot conditions," Stephenson said.
 
Hinsdale and Lanesborough both arrived on scene for assistance and Lenox, Dalton, and another crew from Lanesborough covered city stations. 
 
At the same time as firefighters worked on Highland Avenue, Stephenson said another fire call came in. At that scene, a mattress had caught on fire and an off-duty firefighter who lived in the neighborhood was able to drag it out of the home, preventing a structure fire there.
     

Overheated Pump Fills Pittsfield Home With Smoke

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city woman helped her elderly neighbor after a water pump overheated and filled her Parkside Avenue home with smoke.
 
According to residents on scene, the woman who lives at 148 Parkside Ave. fled the home after smoke filled the first floor. A neighbor saw her, ran over and helped her get away. She then called 911.
 
The Fire Department arrived shortly after and began searching for the potential fire. Ultimately the department determined that it was an overheated pump that began filling the home with smoke.
 
Firefighters ventilated the home and paramedics on scene evaluated the older woman. 
     

Missing Pittsfield Man's Body Found Off West Street

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of a Pittsfield man missing since Saturday was found Monday afternoon in Hancock.
 
Investigators say the death of 66-year-old Dan Lewis does not appear to be suspicious.
 
Pittsfield Police received a 911 call shortly after 4 p.m. saying a person had been found unresponsive about a quarter mile past the locked gate at the end of West Street. When first responders arrived at the scene, they found the body of Lewis, who was reported missing Saturday evening.
 
He was last seen on video surveillance walking west on East Street in front of Berkshire Mazda at 9:05 p.m. on Saturday, and near a home at the intersection of Dalton and Plastic avenues. It was theorized he may have been heading to Stephentown, N.Y., where he had previously lived, or Hinsdale, where he grew up.
 
The investigation is being conducted by state police detectives assigned to the district attorney's office and by members of the Pittsfield Police Department.
     

Pittsfield Police Ask Residents to Stop Sharing Facebook Image

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Police are asking residents to stop sharing an image from Facebook with a sarcastic message about school shootings. 
 
According to a post on the department's Facebook page, the message is not directed at Pittsfield but rather Pittsfield, N.H.
 
"For the past 24-plus hours we have been inundated by messages with this image," the post states. "We followed up upon receiving the first message and it was immediately clear this was NOT Pittsfield MA." 
 
The message stated "whoever plans on shooting up a school next, please pick Pittsfield. Thank you." The post by the girl was accompanied by a smiley face with a halo. 
 
The Concord (N.H.) Monitor reported on Thursday that a student was banned from the Pittsfield Middle High School in New Hampshire while what police described as a threat was being investigated. The post was apparently made on the student's Facebook page sometime Tuesday.  
 
Pittsfield, Mass., Police noted that the authorities in Pittsfield, N.H., are aware of the post. 
 
"PLEASE stop sharing this image as it is only creating mass confusion in and around our community. We understand the reason why people have shared but PLEASE STOP. Thank you," the police asked. 
     
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