New charges for man convicted of conning writers
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | October 29,2013
BENNINGTON — A Manchester man who served time in prison this year for defrauding at least 20 people of more than $100,000 is now accused of conning a 75-year-old woman out of $28,000 in a case which a judge said “shocks the conscience of the court.”
Peter Campbell-Copp, 64, of Manchester, pleaded innocent Monday in Bennington criminal court to two felony counts of using false pretenses to obtain more than $900.
In April, Campbell-Coppp pleaded guilty to 16 felonies and four misdemeanors based on accusations that he had been taking money from aspiring authors and promising to publish their books but never actually producing the books. He was sentenced to serve six months of a 12-month sentence in prison and the remaining six months in home confinement.
Bennington County Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville said Campbell-Copp had been released from prison this month.
Judge Nancy Corsones said the court is required to assess a defendant’s “character and mental condition” in deciding on conditions of release. The timing of the charges weighed against Campbell-Copp, she said.
“It frankly shocks the conscience of the court that we’re here again. It’s just shocking to me with the number of witnesses who came forward in 2011 ... it’s alleged that the defendant, again, defrauded an elderly person out of tens of thousands of dollars, shortly before he resolved the underlying cases and was sentenced,” she said.
In an affidavit, Officer Daniel Steere, of the Manchester Police Department, said he was contacted by a 75-year-old Manchester woman Sept. 2. She said she had signed a contract with Campbell-Copp on Feb. 14 and loaned him $15,000. On March 29, she loaned Campbell-Copp another $13,000, Steere said.
In the contract, Campbell-Copp promised he would pay the woman back using money he said he would received from working with four different companies. Steere said the contact numbers or email addresses at two of the companies were not in service which led him to conclude “it is difficult to know whether or not they actually did or currently do exist.”
Steere said an official at one of the remaining companies said he hadn’t heard from Campbell-Copp in more than a year and an official at the fourth company said he spoke to Campbell-Copp “but nothing ever came of it.”
The woman said she had gotten one payment for $2,000 although Campbell-Copp had agreed to pay back at least $35,000.
Rainville asked Corsones to hold Campbell-Copp on $100,000 bail. She pointed out that Campbell-Copp’s wife is a British citizen and said that when the state’s attorney’s office began to investigate the latest allegation, they were contacted by Interpol and told there might be pending investigations in Europe.
Rainville said Campbell-Copp’s pattern is to “prey on the elderly” and then move to a new location.
“Here in Vermont, he is literally the most notorious serial embezzler. The victim’s compensation fund has never had a case like this before, that’s what they told us,”she said.
Rainville acknowledged that Campbell-Copp had appeared in court while the publishing fraud cases were pending but said the state was not seeking a jail sentence in those cases.
“His offer right now is 16 to 20 years to serve on this case. So it’s a completely different ball game. There’s a greatly enhanced risk of flight,” she said.
Corsones set bail for Campbell-Copp at $15,000. The court is also going to continue to keep his passport which it has had since the previous cases.