By PHILLIP BANTZ
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.