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Archive for May, 2009

By PHILLIP BANTZ

Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: May 27, 2009

A hungry young black bear ripped open a homeless man’s tent Tuesday and chased him through the woods in Keene, according to wildlife officials.

The local man, identified as Dave Kolek, was not injured during the incident. Kolek wears tattered clothing, has a thick beard and long hair and is known by an array of nicknames, including “Tarzan” and “Jumanji.”

The bear tore open Kolek’s tent, which was located in a wooded area near the intersection of Main Street and Route 101, shortly after 10:30 a.m., N.H. Fish and Game Officer Josiah Towne said.

The bear was going after raisins and other food that Kolek was storing inside the tent, Towne said.

“He was an easy target for the bear because he had food down there that was easily accessible to the bear,” Towne said. “This time of year, they’re coming out for food and they’re hungry.”

Kolek attempted to fight off the bear with a long-handled shovel, and the bear chased him through the woods to the edge of Route 101, Towne said. The bear then turned and went back to Kolek’s tent, he said.

Kolek was still clutching the shovel when he met with Towne on the side of the road and told him about his encounter with the bear.

“I went back down into the woods and the bear was still milling around the tent and I chased it off into the woods. He came back a second time and I chased him off again,” Towne said. “You just make loud noises and try to scare it off. They’re usually more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Before the bear turned up at the campsite, it was spotted moving across lawns and rummaging through bird feeders and trash cans in downtown Keene in the areas of Colby and South streets.

Ted W. Walski, a regional wildlife biologist for Fish and Game, said the bear is about 16 months old and weighs at least 100 pounds. The bear has blue tags on each of its ears, but no radio collar that would indicate that it was under study, Walski said.

Blue tags are used by the University of Massachusetts and Fish and Game to keep track of the bears in the area, he said.

“This bear could just be doing his own thing, making a big loop, because these young males wander many, many miles when looking for a home range,” Walski said. “They’ll wander hundreds of miles over several months.”

Attempts to contact Kolek for comment on his run-in with the bear were unsuccessful. Wildlife officials said he packed up his belongings and headed to another campsite after the incident.

Police and other agencies have repeatedly offered to find Kolek shelter and give him a cell phone so he could call 911 if he had an emergency, but he has turned them down, Keene police Lt. Jay U. Duguay said.

“He’s very content with his life,” he said. “We have officers who still continue to check on him, though, just in case something changes.”

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By PHILLIP BANTZ 
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: May 21, 2009

The N.H. Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office is investigating a prominent Keene lawyer accused of placing his financial interests above his paraplegic client’s.

The complaint against Timothy A. O’Meara stems from a personal injury case he handled for the family of a Hampton woman whose spinal cord was severed in a May 2005 crash.

Anita Conant was attending her father’s funeral in Pennsylvania when a paving company’s dump truck slammed into the back of her car while she was stopped at a red light.

The impact of the crash launched the car 130 feet down the road and it landed on its roof in a ditch.

The Conant family received $11.5 million from the paving company, Lyons & Hohl Paving Inc., and its insurer, The Cincinnati Insurance Companies.

O’Meara collected $1.6 million in legal fees from the settlement.

O’Meara is accused of entering into a contract for the settlement, which was far lower than what the Conant family needed to care for Anita Conant, without their consent; pressuring them to pay him excessive legal fees; and lying during testimony about his handling of the case.

O’Meara has denied any wrongdoing in a court filing responding to the complaint. The Concord attorney representing him declined comment on the specifics of the complaint.

“I have never tried a case in a newspaper before and I don’t want to start now,” Michael R. Callahan said. “We strongly deny the charges and look forward to an opportunity to have our hearing.”

The Conants referred comment to their attorney, James P. Bassett, also of Concord. Bassett said he is simply advising the Conants as the complaint process unfolds.

The complaint against O’Meara has cleared a screening committee for the Supreme Court.

Disciplinary counsel Landya B. McCafferty will present the evidence she’s gathered against O’Meara during an upcoming hearing.

“I have the burden of proof at the hearing,” McCafferty said. “The burden of proof is very high.”

The Attorney Discipline Office receives about 250 complaints about lawyers every year, but only 25 end with some form of discipline, according to McCafferty.

If a conduct committee for the Supreme Court validates the complaint against O’Meara, he could face reprimand, public censure, suspension or disbarment.

Allegations of deceit and greed

Anita Conant’s husband, James E. Conant, hired O’Meara about a week after the crash on the recommendation of his brother, Craig Conant, who was friends with O’Meara and his wife, Dorrie, a local business owner, according to McCafferty’s complaint against O’Meara.

The complaint provides the following details about what happened after O’Meara met with the Conants:

O’Meara filed suit against Lyons & Hohl once he was sworn in to the Pennsylvania Bar Association in November 2005.

He neglected to tell the Conants that he was not licensed to practice law in the Keystone State during their initial meetings.

The Conants agreed to pay O’Meara a third of any settlement they received, but later asked that he lower his legal fees after he offered to settle the case for Lyons & Hohl’s insurance policy limit of $11 million without their authorization.

A certified life-care planner, Dr. David B. Stein, determined after O’Meara made the unauthorized offer that it was going to cost more than $23 million to care for Anita Conant during her lifetime.

O’Meara assured the Conants that they would receive more than the policy limit and agreed to lower his fee if they did not.

During a heated meeting at the Conants’ home prior to the settlement, Anita Conant, who could not speak, mouthed the following to O’Meara: “Tell me why I should not fire you now?” after he said he’d reduce his fee by $500,000.

O’Meara would receive $3 million if the Conants accepted the $11 million settlement, and they’d be left with $8 million.

* O’Meara threatened to sue the Conants for his one-third fee if they fired him and said he would win in court.

O’Meara denied making the threat, but admitted telling the Conants that litigation “gets ugly” and “is an unhappy result for everyone.”

* During a mediation meeting in Philadelphia, O’Meara and James Conant hashed out a new contract that gave O’Meara $2 million in fees for any settlement up to $14.5 million. O’Meara would receive 20 percent of any settlement over that amount.

James Conant said he felt pressured by O’Meara before the hearing — O’Meara told him he would not represent him during the hearing until they agreed on his legal fee — and misunderstood the contract he signed.

He knew he was agreeing to give O’Meara $2 million if the settlement was for $14.5 million, but was unclear on what would happen if the settlement was lower than that amount.

* The mediation hearing concluded with The Cincinnati Insurance Companies agreeing to pay out $11 million. Lyons & Hohl agreed to give the Conants an additional $500,000, but warned that if the family asked for a higher settlement it would likely declare bankruptcy.

* The Conants decided to fire O’Meara after the hearing and pay him his hourly rate, which is not disclosed in court documents, for the time he spent on the case.

James Conant returned to Philadelphia on March 6, 2006, with a new attorney and accepted the $11.5 million settlement because he feared Lyons & Hohl would take the $500,000 off the table.

* The Conants agreed to pay O’Meara $750,000 and place $1.25 million in an escrow account that would be doled out when their dispute with O’Meara was settled.

O’Meara eventually received $837,000 from the escrow account and the Conants took the remaining $413,000.

Supreme Court upheld a previous complaint

The Supreme Court disciplined O’Meara in 2003 for lying to a judge while representing himself in a divorce and child custody case.

The Supreme Court determined that a public censure rather than suspension or disbarment was sufficient punishment for O’Meara because he made false statements during a case that was personal and emotionally charged.

Public censure was also recommended because O’Meara had maintained a clean disciplinary record since joining the state bar in 1993.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 15, 2009

A 76-year-old woman, too weak to stand for the judge, admitted Thursday to her role in a murder-for-hire plot targeting her grandson’s mother.

Constance “Connie” Boldini pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation to commit murder as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. She was taken from Cheshire County Superior Court to N.H. State Prison to serve a sentence of 41/2 to 15 years.

If she had opted for a trial and was convicted by a jury, she could have faced a maximum prison sentence of 15 to 30 years.

Boldini’s blank criminal record prior to the September 2008 murder plot and her age played a role in the sentence she received, Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed said in court. Her son, Guido “Tony” Boldini, also told police he masterminded the plot, he said.

Guido Boldini, 43, pleaded guilty in April to the same charge his mother was sentenced on and received eight to 20 years in prison. He barely spoke and expressed little emotion during his sentencing hearing.

He wanted Michelle Hudon dead because he was involved in a custody battle over a 4-year-old boy he had with her. He believed that the boy was being abused at Hudon’s house, according to court testimony.

Hudon and Guido Boldini’s relationship had fallen apart and she planned to sell her house in Hancock, located next door to the ramshackle residence Constance Boldini shared with Guido Boldini, and move away with her children.

Guido Boldini told Hudon she would have to take his son “over my dead body,” Heed said. But Guido Boldini apparently wanted Hudon to die instead.

Days before the murder plot crumbled, Constance Boldini walked into Gino’s Bar & Grill on Court Street in Keene and asked for the owner, Gino C. Mola, who thought the woman was collecting donations for a fundraiser, Heed said.

Mola told Constance Boldini he was too busy to talk and asked her to return the next day, which she did. She told Mola that she “understood he was a man who could get things done,” Heed said.

Constance Boldini then told Mola that her son was having trouble with a woman and “needed her out of the picture immediately,” Heed said. She left the bar after giving Mola her contact information, he said.

When reached after Constance Boldini’s sentencing hearing, Mola said he had no idea why the Boldinis chose him to find a hit man and declined further comment.

After speaking with Constance Boldini, Mola went straight to the Keene police and agreed to allow investigators to record his phone conversations with the Boldinis and set up surveillance at his business, Heed said.

The police tracked down Hudon to warn her of the murder plot, and they also investigated the claims of abuse involving the son she had with Guido Boldini, Heed said. The investigation determined the claims were bogus, he said.

Hudon told investigators that she wanted to leave Guido Boldini because he was “controlling” and “domineering,” Heed said.

She also said that Guido Boldini easily manipulated Constance Boldini, who said in court that she suffered from nervous breakdowns and had to be hospitalized for months at a time throughout her life.

As the investigation against the Boldinis progressed, Hudon and her children were relocated from their home to a safe, undisclosed location.

The police found a N.H. Attorney General’s Drug Task Force agent who agreed to go undercover as a hit man named “John,” Heed said.

John scheduled a meeting with the Boldinis in a vehicle wired for video and audio surveillance in the parking lot outside Gino’s Sept. 18, 2008.

While the agent asked both Boldinis to show up, only Constance Boldini made an appearance, Heed said.

Guido Boldini was seen driving up and down Court Street in a borrowed car as Constance Boldini sat in John’s vehicle, Heed said. Guido Boldini feared he was being set up, he said.

The shopping center where Gino’s is located was surrounded by the police and a SWAT team during the meeting.

John eventually convinced Guido Boldini to park the borrowed car and step into the wired vehicle after telling Constance Boldini that he would not kill Hudon until he sat down face-to-face with both of his clients, Heed said.

With Guido Boldini sitting in the front passenger seat of John’s vehicle and his mother in the back seat, they hashed out a deal to pay $10,000 for the hit on Hudon, Heed said.

The duo said they had a $12,000 insurance claim coming, which investigators later confirmed, and would use that money to pay John after Hudon was dead, he said.

John still wanted a down payment for the hit, so in what Heed described as a “somewhat bizarre scene” the Boldinis began searching through their wallets for cash — Connie Boldini came up with $35 and Guido Boldini found $65.

After giving John the cash and digital photographs of Hudon, the two stepped out into the parking lot and the police swooped in, Heed said.

Connie Boldini apologized almost immediately after she was handcuffed, saying “I’m just a desperate old woman,” Heed said.

Guido Boldini told the police: “She had nothing to do with the hit. It was all my idea,” Heed said.

When the judge asked Constance Boldini if she had anything to say before she was taken to prison, she declined in a fragile voice.

“I think it’s pretty well been said, your honor,” she said.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 15, 2009

The man accused of masquerading as a U.S. marshal while robbing two business owners in Chesterfield earlier this week was nabbed Thursday by the real U.S. Marshals.

John P. Baldasaro, 45, of Somerville, Mass., was arrested without incident at a New York City hotel after tips from confidential sources put police on his trail, Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeffrey White said.

Police say Baldasaro posed as a U.S. marshal, businessman and federal agent while robbing, stealing and kidnapping in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts — he was listed among the Bay State’s most wanted.

U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said in a statement that the string of crimes “were an attack on the reputation of U.S. Marshals, and not something that is taken lightly; the quick and successful arrest of Baldasaro by the U.S. Marshals is evidence of that.”

While Baldasaro allegedly displayed a handgun during some of the robberies, placing the barrel against one victim’s head in Massachusetts, he was unarmed when he was arrested, White said.

He declined to comment on whether Baldasaro was still driving the black Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo that was reported stolen in Maine and used during the robberies in Chesterfield.

U.S. Marshals tracked Baldasaro to the Brooklyn-Manhattan area through tips and “good old-fashioned police work,” and eventually found him at a Manhattan hotel after canvassing the area, White said.

Baldasaro will be arraigned on a charge of being a fugitive from justice in New York and then authorities will attempt to extradite him to New Hampshire, where he faces charges of robbery and kidnapping, White said.

While posing as a U.S. marshal investigating a counterfeit cash operation Monday morning, he convinced the owners of Khyber Convenience Store and Big Deal on Route 9 in Chesterfield to hand over cash from their stores, police said. He even talked one of the owners into giving him cash from his bank account, police said.

Baldasaro, who is being held without bail, may fight or waive extradition to the Granite State. If he waives extradition, he could be brought back sooner than if he fights the process.

He also faces charges of robbery, kidnapping and impersonating a police officer in Cambridge, Mass.; vehicle theft in Lincoln County, Maine; and a parole violation in Vermont stemming from a previous kidnapping conviction.

While it’s unclear which state Baldasaro will be extradited to first, White said he believed New Hampshire will be his initial stop. And that suits Chesterfield police Lt. Duane M. Chickering.

Chickering worked 16-hour shifts tracking Baldasaro alongside another detective, who spent at least 12 hours each day on the case.

“We’ve actually had the whole department working on this,” Chickering said. “The patrol units were out there doing follow-ups and the secretary was here logging all the tips we received.”

The brazenness of the robberies in Chesterfield coupled with the robber’s history of impersonating law enforcement struck a bitter chord with police and shook up the communities where the crimes occurred, Chickering said.

“People need to trust the police. When that trust is betrayed it kills everyone in law enforcement,” he said. “Now we have to work that much harder to gain everybody’s trust.”

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 13, 2009

CHESTERFIELD — The man accused of swindling two business owners in Chesterfield has been tied to a scam and vehicle theft in Maine and an armed robbery in Massachusetts.

John P. Baldasaro, 45, of Somerville, Mass., has posed as a businessman, a federal agent and a U.S. marshal while committing the string of crimes in three states, authorities said.

Baldasaro’s mug shot is posted among Massachusetts’ most wanted and he is being sought by more than a dozen police agencies, along with the U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

“We’re already getting a ton of tips from various government agencies and police agencies and a lot of citizens,” Chesterfield police Lt. Duane M. Chickering said. “Our hopes are that we are going to locate him soon.”

Baldasaro convinced a pair of Chesterfield business owners that he was a U.S. marshal investigating a counterfeit money operation Monday morning, Chickering said.

Baldasaro allegedly duped Fayyaz Awan, owner of Khyber Convenience Store, and Paul Saba, owner of Big Deal, into handing over cash from their stores on Route 9 and talked Awan into giving him cash from his bank account.

“The guy was professional. He was just really, really smart,” Saba said. “I was working with him as an agent. I was trying to help this federal agent with what he was trying to do.”

While the robber was running the con, he displayed a holstered handgun and pretended to speak with a team of other U.S. marshals on a Bluetooth-type device attached to his ear, Saba said.

Saba said he felt threatened only once during the ordeal, when the robber requested that he hand over identification.

“He forced me to give it to him,” he said. “He put his hand on the gun like he was getting ready to pull it and I said, ‘No, no, here’s my ID.’ ”

Even after the con artist took cash from both stores and drove away with Awan to pilfer his bank account, he repeatedly called Saba’s cell phone to update him on the “operation,” saying the counterfeiting suspect was under surveillance and on the verge of being arrested.

“He kept calling me every two, three minutes. He’d say, ‘We’re watching the other guy, he’s coming out of his house now,’ ” Saba said. “He told me to wait at Khyber and I was supposed to meet with him there and he would bring back my money.”

While it’s not clear why the robber targeted Khyber — an employee declined comment and Awan did not return a message — it appears that he scoped out the location before making a move, Chickering said.

“It’s apparent that the suspect had done his homework on the area,” he said. “I don’t know 100 percent why he focused on Khyber, but I know that Route 9 is easily traveled and it takes you to Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada.”

Baldasaro is wanted in Massachusetts for posing as a federal agent and luring a robbery victim with a vehicle he said he was trying to sell, according to the Cambridge Police Department.

While riding in the bait vehicle with the victim, Baldasaro ordered the man to pull over, placed a gun against his head, stole $4,000 cash and an iPhone from him, and then told him to run away or be shot, police said.

In Maine, Baldasaro is accused of posing as a Bay State businessman and defrauding a family out of $7,000 in a fraudulent investment deal, according to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.

He also stole a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo from a dealership in Maine, and was driving the vehicle during the Chesterfield robberies, Chickering said. The Jeep has shiny black paint and a rear license plate with “GOV” written at an angle on its left side.

Baldasaro was last seen at about 11:30 the night of the convenience store robberies at the Riverside Hotel in West Chesterfield near the Brattleboro town line. The hotel, which is owned by Saba’s brother, was not robbed and Baldasaro’s motive in going there remains unknown.

“If he’d rented a room, we would’ve caught him,” Chickering said.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 05, 2009

The retrial of a man accused of robbing a Keene bank was delayed again because a core witness has indicated police misconduct and planted evidence tainted the case, court documents show.

Jesse Garcia’s retrial at Cheshire County Superior Court was scheduled to begin today after several postponements, but his court-appointed attorney, Theodore W. Barnes, was granted more time to build his case.

Garcia, 32, faces three counts of armed robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon in connection with a midday heist in August at the Bank of America in downtown Keene. His new trial date has not been set.

Barnes said during the first trial in November that Garcia was the victim of a setup and that his ex-girlfriend, Cynthia Wood, was at the center of the frame job. Wood was angry with Garcia because he left her for a stripper, Barnes said.

In asking for another continuance in the trial, Barnes cited a pair of letters Garcia received in jail from Wood. The letters “call into question the truthfulness” of what Wood told the police and a jury during Garcia’s first trial, Barnes wrote in his request.

Wood’s letters “partially identify” a person who may have planted evidence that was used to connect Garcia to the bank robbery, Barnes’ request states.

Wood also claims in the letters that police investigators were aware of evidence that proved Garcia’s innocence, but ignored it and moved forward with the case against him, according to Barnes.

Barnes and prosecutors will question Wood under oath about the letters during a court hearing scheduled later this month.

Wood could refuse to answer certain questions about the letters by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The court would then determine if she has a valid argument to remain silent.

The process will help Barnes and prosecutors prepare questions for Wood during the retrial.

In other pretrial maneuverings, Barnes unsuccessfully attempted to keep out of court a ski mask and pellet gun Wood said she found among Garcia’s belongings and turned over to police.

Garcia’s DNA was found on the ski mask and the pellet gun, which matched witness descriptions of the bank robber’s weapon, Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly said during the first trial.

O’Reilly, the lead prosecutor in the case, did not respond to a message left at her office seeking comment on Wood’s letters to Garcia.

Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed and Barnes also declined to comment on the substance of the letters, which have not been made public.

Barnes said the letters are his “priority one” in proving Garcia’s innocence. But he is still considering hiring a private investigator to interview jurors from the first trial in an effort to prove Garcia did not receive a fair trial.

Jurors who spoke with The Sentinel after the mistrial said the jury was leaning toward acquitting Garcia when they left the court’s deliberation room for a weekend break. When they returned to court Monday, the jury favored a guilty verdict.

Barnes said he suspected some jurors disobeyed the judge’s orders and read news accounts of the trial, which mentioned Garcia’s previous convictions for armed robbery. His criminal history was not disclosed during the trial.

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