A man facing 75 fraud-related charges in what police described as a multistate scheme involving hay and maple syrup has pleaded guilty under a deal with prosecutors.
Richard Blackmer Jr., 40, a former Shaftsbury resident, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of false pretenses. In return, the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office asked the court to dismiss dozens of other felony and misdemeanor charges against him.
Prosecutors intend to argue for a maximum sentence of 10 years at his upcoming sentencing, according to Blackmer’s notice of plea agreement.
In a Sept. 9 hearing before Bennington Superior Court Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady, Blackmer admitted that, primarily between 2019 and 2020, he intentionally entered into fraudulent contracts to deliver products such as hay and maple syrup. Many of the people he dealt with lived outside Vermont.
“When he entered into that contract, he had no intention of actually fulfilling the promise as agreed to,” said the prosecutor, Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett. “Instead, he intended to never fulfill that promise or to partially fulfill it, and ultimately have a series of different excuses or lies when he’s asked to provide the product.”
Vermont State Police earlier said that from around 2013 until 2020, Blackmer defrauded at least two dozen people in eight states in deals that also included maple syrup equipment, farm equipment and collectible model cars.
Investigators said the complainants were residents of Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Minnesota and California.
According to court records, Blackmer offered a litany of excuses about why he couldn’t deliver the products, refund customers or complete payments on orders he’d made. The excuses supposedly included issues with his truck, his employees, the weather, the bank, the post office, child care, his grandfather’s death, his father’s health, his son’s health or his health — including one instance in which Blackmer made it appear he had open heart surgery, went into a coma and died.
He was arrested in April 2021 and was released with several court-imposed conditions. Those included not engaging in business dealings through social media or entering into any contract greater than $500 unless he had court approval.
Of his 75 charges, Blackmer pleaded guilty to one felony: failing to deliver 120 bales of hay to a Massachusetts woman despite receiving $1,140 as payment. Plunkett said Blackmer failed to issue the requested refund until the woman threatened to sue him.
The prosecutor said complainants in the dismissed charges will be encouraged to provide statements that would go into Blackmer’s presentence investigation report. The report helps judges determine what sentence to impose on a defendant.
His multi-page list of charges originally exposed him to a maximum penalty of 600 years in prison.
Blackmer, who was reported as a New York resident in February, also pleaded guilty in three other Vermont criminal cases. He pleaded guilty to a 2019 felony charge of home improvement fraud in Bennington County, a 2020 charge of false pretenses in Addison County, as well as violating a condition of release in 2021 by entering into a $5,200 contract without the court’s consent.
His sentencing hearing had not been scheduled as of Monday evening.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Man pleads guilty in case involving hay and maple syrup scams.