IRS scammer makes a bad call

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copyright the Chronicle November 8, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A scammer pretending to be from the IRS recently made a remarkably bad call. She dialed the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and, unbeknownst to her, ended up talking to Chief Deputy Phil Brooks, who she threatened with arrest if he didn’t immediately pay what she claimed he owed the federal government.

The Sheriff’s Department has several lines and received four phone calls from scammers that day, all of them recorded messages with a call back number, Chief Deputy Brooks said by phone last week.

So he called back.

The IRS scam is a particularly vicious one because the callers are sophisticated and can be very threatening. They typically say that a person owes a significant amount of money in back taxes, and a sheriff will arrest them soon if they don’t pay up. Like, right now.

“The ‘agent’ utilizes fear and intimidation tactics to get the victim to forward money discretely and privately, and even tells them that a warrant will be issued by the Sheriff and the person will be arrested if they don’t comply,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote in a press release about the incident.

Chief Deputy Brooks dragged the call out for 15 minutes or so and pretty much let the scam run its course.

In this case, the scammer, who called herself IRS agent Christina Fernandez, said he owed $7,986 to the IRS. He said that when he informed Ms. Fernandez that he didn’t have that amount of money, the sum drifted downward to $2,795.

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Thousands remain without power

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copyright the Chronicle November 1, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

High winds roared through Vermont early Monday morning, felling trees, branches, and power lines, and plunging tens of thousands of homes into darkness.

At the height of the outage early Monday morning, about 40 percent of the Vermont Electric Cooperative’s 38,000 members were without power, the utility reported. Halfway through Tuesday, VEC crews had restored power to about 4,600 members with about 9,000 more to go.

It could be a few days yet before electricity is restored to all homes, VEC warned.

One of the problems is the extent of the storm. As of Tuesday morning, 880,000 people throughout New England were without power, VEC said in a press release.

“The extent and complexity of the damage caused by yesterday’s wind storm across VEC’s rural territory, coupled with the high demand for mutual aid crews throughout New England, means it’s taking longer than usual for restoration in many cases,” VEC explained.

A message at the Johnson-based cooperative on Monday listed all the towns in its service area that were experiencing outages, and it appeared the list included nearly every one of them.

The message also urged people to call 211 if they needed help with shelter and to keep checking the VEC website for updates on when service was likely to be restored.

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Arrest made in moose poaching case

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copyright the Chronicle November 1, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A 20-year-old Irasburg man has been arrested in connection with a moose poaching case in Westmore in late September.

Gerin Fortin was arrested on Sunday and charged with six counts of big game violations, including taking game by illegal means and in closed season, and two counts of shooting from a motor vehicle, Colonel Jason Batchelder at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said on Tuesday.

Colonel Batchelder said that Mr. Fortin allegedly shot a cow moose from his pickup truck on Saturday, September 23, in Westmore. He said that, according to a witness, Mr. Fortin then struck the moose with his truck and shot it again in the head.

Mr. Fortin allegedly chained the moose to his truck and dragged it more than 11 miles to Orleans where it was left to rot by the side of the road. The moose was lactating, indicating that she likely had a calf with her, game wardens said.

Mr. Fortin’s Ford F150 pickup has been seized as evidence, along with his rifle, ammunition, and truck chains, says a press release from Fish and Wildlife. “These items stand to be forfeited upon conviction.”

The suspect is scheduled to appear in Orleans County Superior Court on December 26. He faces fines and restitution of up to $8,000 and up to one year in jail.

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Reward offered for information on poached moose

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copyright the Chronicle October 25, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A Craftsbury Common woman rapidly raised more $2,500 through GoFundMe in order put up a reward she hopes will lead to the conviction of whoever illegally shot a cow moose in Westmore last month.

Efforts to reach Cindi Bollettieri, who launched the campaign and put up $1,000 herself, were unsuccessful, but she posted the following on the gofundme page: “Vermont state game wardens are seeking tips to help solve a case of a moose that was poached in Westmore. A reward is available to anyone with information leading to an arrest by calling Operation Game Thief at 1-800-75 ALERT.

The cow moose was shot from the road out of season and at night on Saturday, September 23. After poachers shot the moose, they dragged the animal on the road behind their truck over 11 miles to the town of Orleans. The animal was left to rot in the 80-degree heat by the side of Hollow Road off Route 58 in Orleans. The cow moose was lactating, indicating she likely had a calf with her.

100% of funds raised will go directly to: 
Operation Game Thief — Orleans Moose 
in care of Vermont Fish & Wildlife, 
1 National Life Drive,
Montpelier, Vermont 05602”

Donations ranged from $5 to Ms. Bollettieri’s own $1,000.

“Oh, my God, this makes my heart hurt,” one post says. “Please find whoever did this.”

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Some skeptical of Conte expansion

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copyright the Chronicle October 18, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

A federal plan to expand the Sylvio O. Conte, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge that includes thousands of acres in northeastern Vermont, has met with skepticism in some circles. One of the more influential of those skeptics is Governor Phil Scott.

The Conte, as it’s often called, was established in 1997 to conserve native plant, fish and wildlife species, as well as ecosystems, throughout the Connecticut River watershed. Currently, it includes a little over 36,000 acres within parts of the four watershed states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. About 25,000 of the Conte’s acres are in Vermont, primarily in Essex County.

The federal government wants to add about 60,000 Vermont acres to the refuge — not through eminent domain, but by buying the land from property owners, or by acquiring conservation easements.

Nonetheless, it has generated concern about how municipalities and the forestry industry will be affected. While no one wants to say they oppose conservation in theory, in practice it can have unintended consequences.

Last month, Governor Scott wrote Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing concern about the proposed expansion.

“Unlike many western states, where large percentages of land are owned or controlled by the federal government, our land use history and heritage centers on private ownership,” the Governor wrote. “These lands provide our citizens with recreational opportunities, an exceptional quality of life, and jobs.”

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Fire destroys landmark barn in Barton

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copyright the Chronicle October 11, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — State Police are looking for information about the Monday afternoon fire that burned the landmark barn known as The Pines to the ground. Firefighters poured a steady stream of water on the farmhouse, which suffered only minor damage, but the barn burned in a hurry.

In a press release issued shortly before midnight on Monday, Detective Sergeant Michael LaCourse said the cause of the fire is undetermined, but remains under investigation.

“Investigators are aware that numerous people took photographs of the fire in its incipient stage and would like to speak with anyone that may have witnessed the fire,” the release says.

A young woman at the neighbor’s house called in the fire after noticing flames shooting out the upper story where hay was stored.

Michael and Kim Riendeau of Brownington own the Kinsey Road property. They said there were no animals in the barn at the time; they were still out to pasture because of the good weather.

The Riendeaus have owned the place for about a year and a half. Before that, Jim Young and Raymond Leblanc owned it, and it was frequently used for livestock and equipment auctions under the name of Northeast Kingdom Sales.

Mr. Riendeau said on Tuesday that he was on his way home from Poulin Grain in Newport Monday afternoon when he ran into his son John in Orleans, who stopped him and told him the barn was on fire.

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Where have all the colors gone?

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

State officials and others are still hoping for good fall foliage color, but at the moment Vermont’s famous fall color isn’t too colorful. In many places, it’s still largely green, and some trees have simply dropped their leaves after they turned crispy brown.

We’re not just talking about pretty scenery here. According to Phil Tortura, communications director for the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing, upwards of 3 million people show up in Vermont in the fall, presumably to look at the leaves. That’s a real boost to the economy, as well as the state’s tax base.

“Peak foliage season often has some of the busiest, if not the busiest, tourism weeks of the year,” Mr. Tortura said.

Early October of 2015, the last year for which there is data, was, in fact, the busiest tourist time of that year, he said.

“If we define fall as September, October and November, Vermont had approximately 3.2 million out-of-state visitors in 2015,” he said.

Those visitors spent $600-million in food, lodging, travel, and other retail sales and second home expenses, Mr. Tortura said. They spent $109-million on overnight accommodations alone.

And the state received more than $37-million in meals and other tax money from activities in those three months, he said.

October 10-12 was the busiest tourist three days of the entire year in 2015, Mr. Tortura said.

So, foliage is clearly a big part of Vermont’s tourism economy, but visitors this year might end up being disappointed. Or not coming at all.

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State seeks ways to boost rural economy

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copyright the Chronicle October 4, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Bleak as the picture for dairy so often is in Vermont, it’s the decline of the state’s forestry industry that people wanted to talk about Tuesday at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farming, forestry, and the rural economy. The Barton meeting drew about a dozen people.

The commissioners of agriculture and forests, parks, and recreation were present, as was the deputy commissioner of forests, parks and recreation.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Bobby Starr of North Troy said the committee is traveling around Vermont listening to ideas about how to improve the rural economy.

“It’s important for us to hear what you folks would like us to do,” he said. “Believe it or not, we work for you.”

“We are going to take all the comments and ideas and try to come up with a few pieces of legislation that will help rural Vermont and outlying areas,” Mr. Starr said.

The meeting also provided information about what is already being done.

Agriculture Commissioner Anson Tebbetts said he actually had some good news to report.

Many Vermonters who work in agriculture attend the annual Big E fair in Massachusetts in the hope of acquiring new and bigger markets, Ms. Tebbetts said.

Visitors to exhibits on Vermont Day were at an all time high, he said. He said there were 171,897 visitors on just the one day. Put that in perspective, he said, and that’s like one-fifth of Vermont was there.

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Widow shares story of husband’s decision to end his own suffering

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

EAST CHARLESTON — Eric Stevens was 67 years old last year in July when his son-in-law carried him out to the porch, where, surrounded by his immediate family, he ate a pudding-like mixture of Seconal and maple syrup. Soon, possibly within minutes, he was dead.

Mr. Stevens was a musician and an avid outdoorsman. In a photo taken less than two weeks before his death, he looks young for 67, tanned and robust, his dark eyes looking into the camera in the straightforward manner he was known for.

But he was far from robust by then. He had an advanced case of multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a rare neurological disease.  It’s similar to Parkinson’s, but crueler.  Parkinson’s victims often develop dementia towards the end.  Those who suffer from MSA do not.  Their bodies shut down bit by bit, but the brain is acutely aware of every bodily failure, every indignity, of the next dreadful step in the progression of their fatal disease.

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Orchard owner searching for stolen apple trees

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017

 

by Tena Starr

 

BARTON — Randolph Cross of West Glover is looking for information about who stole two of his best apple trees.

Mr. Cross, who lives on Parker Pond, also owns property on Route 16 in Barton, just north of Glover Village. He’s put up a garage there, and has perennial gardens, a vegetable garden, and a small orchard with apple and nut trees — walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts.

“It’s something to do, to keep my mind working and to keep active,” he said.

It’s a tidy and well-tended place that Mr. Cross said is something of an experiment — to see what grows and thrives here. He did auto repair for 40 years, which is why he built the garage, he said.

The apple trees were four years old and producing well, Mr. Cross said. His theory is that someone dug them up to transplant them in the woods, or a field somewhere, to bait deer.

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