Extortion letter baffles police investigators
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | February 12,2009
Michael Bousquet, 44, is being sought by police in connection with an apparent extortion letter.
Vermont State Police are puzzled over the meaning of an apparent extortion letter as they search for the Rutland man who they believe wrote the ransom note.
The $1 million demand left in Rutland businessman Charles Coughlin's burglarized home seems to threaten that something the thieves made off with will literally be buried alive if the money wasn't delivered.
But a source in the department said Wednesday night that no person or pet connected to the Coughlins – or anyone else for that matter – has been reported missing.
State Police Detective Sgt. Daniel Elliott wrote in a statement issued Wednesday that police are searching for Michael Bousquet, 44, who, along with 49-year-old Penny McCoy of Rutland, conspired to extort money from Coughlin, who owns a number of McDonald's restaurants, including a pair in Rutland.
The investigation into Bousquet and McCoy began on Feb. 4, when Coughlin returned to his Rutland home to find his house burglarized and an envelope with a seven-page document inside.
Inside the envelope, imprinted with the words "Mr. C Read ASAP" was what Elliott described as a multiple-part extortion letter that included the ominous words "I am currently in possession of your most prized accomplishment."
The letter went on to state that the prized possession was "being held" in a "4-by-4-by-8 crate" in a very remote area. Eventually, the letter promised, the crate would be buried 6 feet deep in a "very, very remote" location. The letter also informed Coughlin that there would be ample food, water and air for 72 hours.
But the sinister sounding plan is an empty threat, according to a State Police official familiar with the case, who said the jewelry and valuable books the thieves made off with wouldn't suffocate or starve to death in the frozen earth.
"We're like you, we don't know what he means," said the official, declining to be identified because it is not his investigation. "What does he have that needs air? Nothing. It makes no sense."
Police would like to ask Bousquet the meaning behind his threat along with the location of the $50,000 to $100,000 worth of items they believe he made off with.
But while police were able to arrest McCoy, who has been charged with possession and sale of stolen property and aiding in the commission of a felony, they are still searching for Bousquet who Elliott believes may have left Vermont for New Hampshire or Massachusetts.
Bousquet, who served time in jail a decade ago on a conviction of false pretense, is described as about 6 feet 2 inches tall and 230 pounds. Police say he may be driving a red Ford Explorer with Vermont license plate EPX171.
Elliott wrote that police arrested McCoy after local merchants reported that she and Bousquet had sold or tried to sell items stolen from Coughlin's house.
Elliott could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday. A call to Coughlin's home wasn't returned by press time.