Wednesday January 16, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- One of three men accused of a series of home break-ins in South County is heading to state prison for at least two years, while a second co-defendant remains on the run and a third had his charges dismissed.

On Tuesday in Berkshire Superior Court, Michael D. Pieri, 26, of Becket, pleaded guilty to 52 charges ranging from multiple counts of breaking and entering and larceny to malicious destruction of property. Authorities say the charges stem from a series of burglaries, primarily of second homes in the Becket developments of Sherwood Forest and Sherwood Greens, between November 2010 and July 2011.

Pieri also pleaded guilty to several gun charges related to a shotgun stolen in one of the burglaries and a charge of common and notorious thief.

His attorney, Marc C. Vincelette, told the court his client’s behavior was driven by a cocaine addiction.

According to police and prosecutors, Pieri’s role in the burglaries included staking out targets and acting as a lookout, while his alleged main accomplice, Timothy Primm, 32, of Bristol, Conn., went into the homes and stripped them of copper wire and pipes and made off with electronics and other items.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Marianne Shelvey said the men caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to at least 16 homes in their attempt to collect copper, which was then sold for scrap in Connecticut. Walls were ripped down, pipes torn out and heating and water systems stripped, she said.

Besides this, the men stole everything from dog food to an $8,000 flat-screen television from the various homes, she said. A small number of items that were stolen were returned to the owners, according to Shelvey.

A third man, Michael A. Pahl, 25, who was implicated in two of the burglaries, had his case dismissed in August when Pieri went missing just before he was supposed to take the stand against Pahl, Shelvey told the court.

Pieri later turned himself in and has been held on $10,000 bail since late August.

On Tuesday, Shelvey said she had planned to recommend a four- to six-year sentence for Pieri. But when he agreed to pay more than $13,000 in restitution, she lowered her sentencing request to at least two years and no more than three years in state prison followed by two years of probation. She also pointed out the defendant’s lack of a record for a reason for the recommendation.

The prosecutor said she wanted the victims to receive compensation for their out-of-pocket losses that insurance didn’t cover.

Judge Daniel A. Ford agreed to the deal. But the judge told Pieri his sentence would have been more severe had he been found guilty after a trial.

Each count of breaking and entering carries a maximum 20 years in prison as does the charge of common and notorious thief. The other charges max out at either five or 10 years in prison.

The judge warned the defendant that if he didn’t pay restitution while on probation he could be sent back to prison for up to 20 years.

Meanwhile, Primm, who disappeared a short time after his September 2011 arraignment in Berkshire Superior Court on similar charges as Pieri, remains on the loose. A warrant has been issued for Primm’s arrest.