PITTSFIELD -- The former manager of a South County sporting goods store who admitted stealing thousands of dollars from the business was sentenced on Thursday to two years in jail.

John C. Jones, 37, of Ashley Falls, used a variety of scams to steal somewhere between $65,000 and $159,000 from Kenver Limited of South Egremont from November 2010 to February 2011, according to police and prosecutors. Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Richard M. Locke said Jones stole to pay for his $100-a-day heroin habit.

Jones used such methods as faking returns, stealing gift cards and telling customers the credit card machines were down in order to get them to pay cash, which he would then pocket, according to Egremont Police.

He was like a son to the owners, who hosted the man's engagement party, bought him a truck and took him on various vacations over the years, Locke said.

Many of the thefts took place while owner Kenneth Vermeulen was undergoing medical treatments. He died in October 2012.

In a victim impact statement, his wife, Lucinda Vermeulen, said her husband was crushed to learn about Jones' betrayal, feeling a sense of devastation and depression he "carried to his grave."

She said that the business suffered because of Jones' actions and that the other employees had been bullied and abused by Jones.

"He must be held accountable," she said. "We can't walk away from this devastation and neither can [Jones]."

Jones pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday to single counts of larceny as an ongoing and continuing offense and making false entries into corporate books.

"I'm extremely remorseful for my actions," he said in court. "I still can't believe I was in that state of mind to steal from them. ... It's something I think about every day."

Jones' lawyer, Lori H. Levinson, said her client had suffered a back injury and was prescribed opiates to which he became addicted. When his prescriptions ran out, a coworker supplied him with illegal pills and then introduced him to heroin, she said.

"He was a full blown heroin addict... out of control," Levinson told the court.

After being confronted with the thefts, Jones immediately confessed, went into rehab and is now helping other recovering addicts, the lawyer said.

She said he had no criminal record and asked that Jones be given a probation sentence, which would allow him to pay back the $65,000 civil judgment that has been levied against him.

Locke was asking for three years in jail.

Judge John A. Agostini sentenced Jones to two years at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction, telling him that although he should be commended for "being on the right road" the fact that he stole from people who considered him family was "hard to take."

Agostini said that many people who come before him have drug problems.

"It's still a choice. It's an explanation, not an excuse," said the judge, telling Jones that there needed to be a "punitive aspect" to the sentence.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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