Fugitive's win in chili contest tips off police

Friday April 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A Pennsylvania woman's chili recipe got her more than a third place win in a local chili contest.

It also led to her arrest on a felony warrant, after Pennsylvania authorities tracked her down in Hinsdale after she posted a picture of the event on Facebook.

Rita E. Ferro, 44, is being held without bail following her arraignment on Friday in Central Berkshire District Court as a fugitive from justice. Pennsylvania law enforcement officials said she forged nearly $15,000 in checks belonging to her ex-employer.

She has agreed to go back to Patton Township, Pa., to face three felonies and a misdemeanor.

In March, Ferro won third place in the 2012 Hinsdale Chili Cookoff in the professional category for her catering company BrooklynBelle. She posted a photo on her Facebook page that showed her winning the award.

Unbeknownst to her, Patton Township Police Detective Erik Haas had been monitoring her Facebook page and was able to track her to the Berkshires through the photo.

Haas said authorities didn't know where Ferro had gone after she left Pennsylvania early last year allegedly to evade her charges.

"It probably wasn't in her best interest to post that picture," Haas said by phone on Friday. He admitted that the investigation "went pretty smoothly from there."

Ferro was arrested by Hinsdale Police on Thursday afternoon at her home on Middleford Road.

On Friday, attorney Thomas M. Sherman Jr., who represented Ferro, said that his client had planned to return to Pennsylvania next week to face the charges and had already purchased a bus ticket.

A probable cause report indicated that from June 2010 to February 2011, Ferro, while working as a housekeeper, had forged $14,795.80 worth of checks belonging to her employer. She allegedly admitted to the man, as well as police, that she had committed the crimes.


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