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2 fair ex-employees arraigned in theft; Men allegedly received stolen bleachers.

Byline: Kim Ring

SPENCER - Two former Spencer fair employees who allegedly stole aluminum bleachers and other items from the Spencer Fairgrounds recently were arraigned in Western Worcester District Court Tuesday.

Nicholas LaPerriere, 25, of 15 McDonald St. Apt. 1, Spencer, and his cousin, John O'Clair, 27, of 91 Meadow Road, Spencer, were charged with receiving stolen property after a Worcester scrap metal dealer who had been told of the theft recognized the material when the men attempted to sell it.

The alleged theft marks the second time the fair has been victimized by former employees who police said stole valuable aluminum and sold it for scrap.

"It's really disappointing," fair president Allan Walker said, adding that Mr. O'Clair had worked for several years as a seasonal employee at the fair.

"He came to me last year and said his cousin had been having a hard time and asked if we would hire him," he said.

Mr. Walker interviewed Mr. LaPerriere and, even though he noticed the court-ordered electronic anklet Mr. LaPerriere was wearing, decided to give him a chance.

"And he was a good worker," Mr. Walker said. "But now this."

In 2008, Nicholas Thibert, of 8 Deer Run, Brookfield, Eric W. Hokenson, of 12 Sherman Drive, Spencer, and David R. Warner, of 15 Kittredge Road, Spencer, were charged after they allegedly stole bleachers valued at $11,450 and sold them for $378. Mr. Hokenson had worked at the fair that year and allegedly came up with the plan to steal the bleachers, slipping them through a fence and into an adjacent cemetery where the trio had parked a truck.

They were ordered to pay restitution.

In the latest case, police believe Mr. LaPerriere and Mr. O'Clair went to the fairgrounds, took the bleacher planks and some wire from under the main stage, then tried to sell it at Starr Scrap Metal Inc., in Worcester.

"I have signs all over warning people that I will help the police prosecute them," said Michael P. Rivard, who owns Starr Scrap Metal.

When he recognized the bleachers, which had been cut up, he checked out the vehicle they were driving and found it matched information Spencer police had provided. He called Worcester police who held the men until Spencer officers arrived and took them into custody.

Mr. Walker said fair officials thought the first incident was isolated, but now they will be talking about ways to improve security, something that could be challenging with their limited budget.

Even Police Chief David B. Darrin said there is probably little that can be done to stop such thefts.

"I don't know that I have any advice," he said, adding that much of the time large pieces of metal must be stored outside making them, "Prime for the taking."

He said if people have metal they plan to sell for scrap, they should expedite that process and not leave the items unsecured outside for any length of time. In part he blames the economy. That, coupled with the high price being paid for scrap, makes stealing metal quite tempting.

"It's lucrative to the point where people are going to take chances," he said.

Cameras might be a deterrent and could be helpful to police if a theft occurs, he said, though they don't provide a guarantee.

Mr. Rivard said he is cautious about what he takes in because there's been a rise in the number of metal thefts. He said some brazen thieves will steal exterior doors from occupied homes and turn them in for scrap.

The aluminum from the bleachers would have netted about $400 if it had been sold. Mr. Rivard said he pays about 55 cents per pound for that type of metal. The bleachers had been cut into pieces and are of no used to the fair anymore.

In a statement contained in his court file, Mr. LaPerriere wrote that he was remorseful.

"I'm not to sure why I did this but I have felt bad . . . and whant to make things better for the trouble I coused for the Spencer Fairgrounds. " he wrote, adding that he is the only one to blame for the theft and that his cousin was very hesitant about helping him.

He wrote that he wants to, "make it up to the people who I've stolen from."

Mr. Walker said he hadn't seen the statement or an accounting of the value of what was stolen but he feels sure that Mr. LaPerriere is in serious trouble since he's already on probation.

"I think he has a pretty good chance of going to the slammer for this," he said.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Mr. LaPerriere (2) Mr. O'Clair
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 21, 2012
Words:779
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