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'We're going to turn you electricity off' scam artists targeted Laconia biz on Friday

LACONIA — A local business owner said he nearly fell for a telephone scam Friday when someone who purported being from Public Service of New Hampshire called his shop and said the electric bill was unpaid and crews were coming any moment to turn off his electricity.

John and Brandon Morin of My Coffee House on Court Street said they knew the electric bill was paid but the man on the phone wouldn't hear it and kept telling him he needed cash.

Morin said he was given a telephone number and a fax number but was told he needed cash. He said he spent most of the day trying to straighten out what he thought was a legitimate error on the part of PSNH.

He said he was concerned that if his electricity was shut off his inventory would spoil.

At one point Morin said he called the bank and had an employee send a faxed copy of his canceled check to a fax number he was given. He also said the callers gave him a toll free number which would ring back to the alleged scam artist who would answer pretending to be a PSNH call-center employee.

Early in the afternoon, Morin got suspicious and looked up the PSNH number on his own and called them.

"They told me this was a new telephone scam that was unfolding as we spoke," Morin said.

"The manager at PSNH was wonderful," he said.

"PSNH told me the company never conducts business that way."

PSNH could not be reached by The Daily Sun for comment last night.

Morin said PSNH actually recognized two of the names being used as fraudulent representatives of their company.

He said a bank branch manager stopped by his shop personally and has helped him close his accounts and reopen new ones.

Morin said his purpose in calling the media was to warn others about the scam.
He said he planned on reporting the attempted fraud to the Laconia Police Department.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 September 2013 02:13

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A 2nd Gilford police officer placed on paid leave

GILFORD — A town official confirmed yesterday that a second Gilford Police Officer has been placed on an paid administrative leave.

The official said that on or about September 15, Officer Holly Harris was placed on a paid leave. She is the Gilford School District's School Resource Officer.

Two weeks ago, officials confirmed Police Chief Kevin Keenan has been placed on paid administrative leave as of August 29.

The town official gave no reason for either leave.

Lt. James Leach is acting chief and last week Town Administrator Scott Dunn said Leach assumed the role of acting chief because of the way the department is structured.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 September 2013 02:07

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Police charge Laconia man punched girlfriend in face & later returned to kick in her door

LACONIA — A Gilford Avenue man was ordered held on $5,000 cash-only bail yesterday morning after allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face with his fist earlier that morning and then returning to the home and kicking in the door.

City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer told the court that John M. Stebbins, 39, was arrested by police at 12:30 a.m. when neighbors called the police. He was charged with two counts of simple assault.

The on-call circuit court judge had granted an emergency temporary restraining order against Stebbins, who was originally released on personal recognizance bail. After leaving the police department, Stebbins allegedly violated that order by returning to the apartment and kicking in the door at 7:30 a.m.

Stebbins faces additional counts of criminal vandalism, breach of bail and violation of a restraining order. He appeared yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Sawyer initially asked for $15,000 cash bail and said police were still investigating the initial assault and that additional charges could be forthcoming. Sawyer also noted that Stebbins has four previous convictions for simple assault, including one from 2012 and one from April of this year.

In two of those instances, Sawyer said he was also convicted of breach of bail.

Sawyer also noted that when Stebbins allegedly returned to the apartment, he also removed either the starter or the alternator from his victim's car. He said police continue to investigate that aspect of the early-morning events.

Public Defender Kate Geraci argued that $15,000 was an impossible amount of bail for Stebbins, who she said had just started a new job and hadn't yet gotten his first paycheck.

She said he had been employed for eight years by a different employer and had left that job to take the new one. Geraci said $250 comes from every one of Stebbins's paycheck to support his three children and if he lost his job, as he likely would if he were held on $15,000 cash bail, then his children would be the ones that would suffer.

Judge Jim Carroll deliberated for about five minutes before setting cash bail at $5,000. He said he didn't take setting cash bail on a working father lightly but that the risk Stebbins potentially poses to the community and his victim outweighs the importance of him keeping his job. Carroll said his decision on cash bail was largely swayed by Stebbins most recent assault convictions as well as his charges of breach of bail.

"(This bail) requires a significant investment by you to ensure your good behavior," Carroll said to him. Stebbins is also ordered to stay off Gilford Avenue and to stay away from the victims and the various neighbors assisted her.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 September 2013 02:05

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Insurance company says entire fire-ravaged building will come down

LACONIA — Fire Chief Ken Erickson said yesterday that the insurers of the building destroyed in a 3-alarm blaze Sunday night on the corner of Fair and Court Streets have determined the portion of 164 Court Street that housed LRGHealthcare laundry services is not salvageable.

The laundry was the one portion of the building not devastated by the blaze but Erickson said the insurance company has determined it would be less expensive to raze the entire building than to save that one portion.

He also said the smoke damage to the hosptial's laundry equipment may be much greater than the initial estimate, bringing the estimated total losses to more than the initial $1 million.

Five days after the fire ripped through the multi-unit commercial facility, fire officials remain on the scene trying to determine how and exactly where the fire started.

Erickson said yesterday that the N.H. Fire Marshal, Deputy Chief Charles Roffo, and representatives from various insurance companies continue to comb through the building looking for the cause and starting point of the fire as well as assessing the damages.

He explained that two things are hampering the investigation — the building is large and it is unsafe. He said firefighters and heavy equipment operators have spent a considerable amount of time making sure the flat-roofed, 27,000-square foot building wouldn't collapse on investigators while they were inside.

An early Sunday morning blaze ripped through the building bringing four ladder trucks from as far away as Concord to the corner. Six separate businesses including Northeast Electrical Solutions, Inc, Little Caesars Pizza, and ABC Fabricating were destroyed.

Fire officials were first alerted at 2:30 a.m. by an alarm that was in the area formerly operated by Skate Escape. Although Skate Escape has been closed for two months, all of that company's equipment remained there.

The construction of a new Advanced Autoparts store at the front of the lot was affected by the fire and that effort continues.

Erickson said the fire was especially difficult to fight because of the size of the building and the rubber membrane roof that initially prevented water from reaching the blaze. He also said there were as many as six layers of roofs under the membrane, one of which was made of asphalt that fueled the blaze.

Although the blaze is catastrophic for all of the businesses that operated from what is commonly known as the old Aubuchon building, all have expressed gratitude that no one was injured.

Erickson has said he had no reason to think the fire was deliberate.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 September 2013 03:12

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