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Local
Rutland National Guard embezzler admits guilt

A Chittenden man might serve 15 months in federal prison after pleading guilty Thursday to one count of mail fraud for allegedly ordering items for the the military, keeping them and reselling them on the internet.

Ammon Yule, 42, who had been a supply sergeant for the Vermont National Guard stationed at the Rutland Armory, was arraigned in federal court in April on three counts of embezzling taxpayer property and three counts of mail fraud.

Yule entered a plea agreement Thursday under which five of the six charges would be dropped when Yule is sentenced.

While Yule entered a guilty plea, his plea will not be accepted until he is sentenced, which is scheduled for March 2. A pre-sentence report will be created before March.

The plea agreement filed in the case called for a sentence of no more than 15 months.

According to the indictment filed against Yule in March, Yule served as a supply sergeant at the Post Road site known as the Rutland Armory.

Yule was a member of the National Guard who was authorized to order equipment and uniforms from the Kentucky Logistics Operations Center, where National Guard supplies were stored and where they were shipped from.

By March 2017 and continuing until March 2018, Yule operated a scheme by which he obtained guard uniforms and equipment illegally, intercepted the items as they reached Rutland and sold them, using the website eBay.com.

The indictment described the operation of the scheme as Yule ordering items like such as parkas and duffel bags as part of his duties as a supply sergeant. When the items arrived in Rutland, Yule would intercept the items and remove them.

“To conceal the scheme to defraud and to explain the arrival of large quantities of goods addressed to him at the Rutland Armory, Yule represented that he used the address of the Rutland Armory as a business address for personal online shopping,” the indictment said.

Yule would claim the items he ordered from the Kentucky center were either going to members of the Vermont National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, or had already gone to them.

The indictment said Yule had tried to prevent others working at the Rutland Armory from obtaining bills of lading from those shipments he had arranged in order to take those particular supplies and sell them for his own benefit.

Investigators found records of some of the items that had been listed for sale on eBay.

“Certain of these descriptions indicated that the items Yule offered for sale were new, official U.S. government-issue uniform items,” the indictment said.

Yule was charged with mail fraud because he shipped the items sold from Vermont to customers throughout the United States and to other countries using the U.S. Postal Service or other private or commercial delivery vendors.

The indictment included three counts of embezzling and three counts of mail fraud based on three specific incidents: A shipment on March 24, 2017, that included about 40 duffel bags; a shipment on April 21, 2017, that included almost 50 parkas; and a shipment on March 6, 2018, that included more than 65 pairs of boots and almost 50 parkas.

After his arraignment, Yule faced up to 20 years in prison and an additional three years under supervised release.

According to the pleas agreement, Yule caused a loss to the military of more than $150,000. The plea agreement does not provide an estimated amount for restitution but says Yule “understands that he has a continuing obligation to pay in full as soon as possible any financial obligation imposed by the court.”

According to court records, Yule was released from custody, as he had been after arraignment, until his sentencing hearing.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com


News
Rutland Post Office to move next week

The last day of the Rutland post office on West Street will be Saturday, but those who pick up mail, buy stamps or send packages there will only have to cross the parking lot to get to the new location at the post office’s annex.

Rutland Postmaster James M. Ragosta II said the move was originally planned for October, but construction issues caused delays.

On Thursday, however, Ragosta said he was packing up, and the move would take place within days.

A handwritten sign at the post office on Thursday said the last day people could buy stamps or retrieve mail from their post office boxes was Saturday.

Starting on Tuesday, those services will be available at the new site across the parking lot from where they are now.

Monday is Veterans Day and the post office will not be open.

The new site of the Rutland U.S. Postal Service is on state and federal historical registries because it is believed to be one of the few art deco-style buildings in Vermont. It was built in 1927 and originally used as a car dealership.

Ragosta said customers will be able to pick up new keys for post office boxes next week in the new building.

According to Ragosta, the move from one building to the other will not mean any interruption of services. He said it has not affected the mail delivery coming from the Rutland office at all.

“Literally the only difference, as far as the public goes, is instead of coming into this building to pick up their field box mail or to do any transactions at the front window, they’ll go to that building across the parking lot,” he said.

No new services are being added to the Rutland post office. Ragosta said everything will be the same except the location.

The Rutland City Board of Aldermen were told in June 2018 the post office was moving, in part, because they had more space in their current location than they needed.

While Ragosta said he wasn’t certain how long the post office had been in its existing location, he estimated the building was from the 1930s.

Over the years, some historic signs and posters have been gathered at the postal offices but Ragosta said the memorabilia won’t be making the trip to the new building.

He added that he believed the Postal Service was one of the current building’s original tenants.

Ragosta said the move is to make room for more federal offices in the building. The federal General Services Administration bought the building in 2009, and it will remain a federal office building after the postal service is relocated.

The U.S. District Court for Vermont will not move from its current location.

Ragosta said he expected some “punch-list” items will still need to be fixed when the new site opens so he apologized to customers in advance for any inconvenience.

“We should be wrapping it up here in the next month or two,” he said.

In its new location, the Rutland post office will still be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Customers can access their post office boxes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but the lobby is closed Sundays and holidays.

The new location will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com


News
Town opposes cell tower location

PITTSFORD — The Select Board voted 4-0 with one abstention to voice its opposition to AT&T’s chosen location for a cell tower intended to improve emergency communications.

A few more than 50 people showed up to the Wednesday board meeting, which was held at Lothrop Elementary School in anticipation of a large crowd.

House Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford, explained that permitting for the proposed 140-foot tower off Oxbow Road is entirely under the purview of the Public Utility Commission. While town zoning bylaws don’t govern it, the town can make its views known to the commission, as can abutting landowners and others party to the quasi-judicial proceeding.

He said people should contact Clay Purvis, director of the Telecommunications and Connectivity Division of the Department of Public Service, if they have any questions about how to get involved in the process. He said the Department of Public Service exists to represent the public in matters before the Public Utility Commission.

AT&T has proposed this tower because it was awarded a federal contract to do so. It’s part of the First Responder Network, also known as FirstNet, which was authorized by Congress in 2012. Towers, or modifications to existing towers, have been proposed by AT&T in Benson, Killington and Mount Holly.

The company may be exploring other options, however. Town Manager John Haverstock said at the meeting he’d received an email from AT&T saying given the feedback it received from a Pittsford Planning Commission meeting Oct. 24, it was exploring other options.

Those who spoke at the Wednesday meeting were concerned about the Oxbow Road tower’s potential impacts to the area’s aesthetics and their property values. Several pointed out there are other locations, and other existing towers, AT&T could use that wouldn’t have these impacts and would provide far better coverage than what the company is now proposing.

Jan Sotirakis, head of the Chittenden Emergency Management Team, said if Pittsford doesn’t want the tower, Chittenden will take one, as cell service there is poor. She said she’d been working to improve warning systems in case the dam at Chittenden Reservoir ever fails and having better cell coverage would aid that endeavor.

Resident Shane Racette said he has a relative who works in communications engineering field who looked at this situation and identified better locations AT&T could use. He shared that information with the Select Board, which agreed to pass on information and comments to the company and the state.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


Photo by Jon Olender  

Wintry mix downtown

Pedestrians cross the corner of Center Street and Merchants Row in Rutland on a rainy Thursday afternoon.


Local
Farmers dish at Farm to Plate conference

KILLINGTON — Will you keep running the saw mill at your dairy farm after your parents retire or focus on the cows? Should you keep growing vegetables on the land where you were raised, or do you and your husband go elsewhere? Was leaving California for Vermont insane or was it the right decision?

These are all some of the questions a group of Vermont farmers have grappled with. They shared their stories and answered questions at the Farm to Plate annual network gathering held at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel on Thursday.

“I grew up in South Royalton, Vermont, born and raised there on a first generation diversified vegetable and livestock farm,” said Shona Sanford-Long, of Luna Bleu Farm in South Royalton. “I didn’t ever think I was going to go back to farming after college. It was something I’d grown up with, always loved, maybe not always loved, but loved many aspects of.”

Through studying biology in college, she realized much of what interested her in life could be found in farming. She worked on livestock farms around the country, “and then decided under two years ago to move back to my family’s farm in Vermont with my husband, thinking about potentially taking over the farm.”

She said farming leaves one with a deep connection to the land, and got emotional when telling the audience of a few hundred that her life will be undergoing another change.

“I actually have since decided because of my husband’s work, we’re going to be leaving our farm soon,” she said. “I’m trying to think about farming in another area, but in thinking about this past week, a lot of the things I notice are things related to what I’m leaving behind.”

Taylor Mendell, of Footprint Farm in Starksboro, said it was hard getting into the Vermont farming scene, having little experience and not knowing anyone local.

“I came here in 2013. My husband and I met on a farm in California, and he said, hey, my parents have land in Vermont. I said great because California is on fire every year, so we came here and started a super-tiny farm. The land his parents had is very sloped, right next to a wetland that’s not great for agriculture, but it’s what we had,” she said.

She said growing vegetables on her small farm has been tough but enjoyable.

“Everybody is so self-sufficient in Vermont, they won’t buy our vegetables in the summer time because everybody grows their own,” she said. “So doing the winter CSA has been really fun.”

Chuda Dhaurali said he’s from Bhutan and lived in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming to Vermont in 2009. He works Pine Island Farm, a goat farm, in Colchester, with his family. He said he’s come to view the United States as a land of opportunity.

Other speakers on the panel were Paul Doton, of Doton Farm in Woodstock, and Matt Angell, of White Rock Farm in Randolph.

“Less than 2% of the population of the United States is in agriculture, we need to be able to develop trust between those who are not in agriculture and those who are in agriculture,” said Doton, responding to a question about agriculture’s future.

Angell and Doton said milk prices are a problem for Vermont dairy farmers, who find themselves competing against much larger farms out west. One solution, they said, might involve adding value to Vermont dairy products, possibly through marketing or other means.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


Spotlight

“These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled. The majority of these incidents are preventable.”

Lina Alathari, head of the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, comments on a comprehensive review released Thursday analyzing school attacks since the Columbine shootings in 1999. — B8

Zen approach

The Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community in Cornwall provides a prepared-from-scratch free lunch for homeless or just plain hungry people every Thursday noontime at Trinity Episcopal Church in Rutland. A8

Warren plan

Massachusetts senator and Democratic Party presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has a plan to pay for Medicare for All by taxing corporations and the wealthy. A5


RHD Hotspot

Sunday

Learn to Curl

After completing this introduction, players are eligible to participate in regular league nights or in pick-up games. No special equipment needed. $20, 3-5 p.m. Giorgetti Arena, Oak St. Ext., Rutland, rutlandrockscurlingclub@gmail.com.