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Hilltowns Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2005

Woman pleads guilty for auctioning hot goods

By Matt Cook

WESTERLO — A Westerlo woman agreed May 4 to plead guilty in federal court to charges of trafficking stolen goods.

Noreen Pettalino, 36, of 201 Albany Hill Road, Westerlo, has admitted to conspiring with a truck driver for nearly a year to sell stolen Eddie Bauer merchandise over the Internet auction site, eBay, according to documents from the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

Pettalino is charged with the transportation of stolen goods, which carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. She has also agreed to pay restitution to Eddie Bauer, Inc., and cooperate in further investigation of the crimes.

According to her plea, Pettalino met a driver for Eddie Bauer in May of 2002. Among other places, he made deliveries to the Eddie Bauer store on Central Avenue in Colonie. The driver told Pettalino that he regularly stole boxes of merchandise from the store after he dropped them off and they were recorded in the inventory, but before the store put them away, the plea says.

Pettalino told the driver that she was willing to buy the stolen merchandise and sell it on eBay, and so she did, for $50 per box, much less than the actual value of the merchandise, the plea says. According to the plea, Pettalino sold stolen Eddie Bauer merchandise over eBay for the next year, sending the merchandise to auction bidders, in the United States and Canada, through the mail.

The total value of the stolen goods Pettalino sold was $77,761.48 retail, and $19,919.41 wholesale, the plea says.

According to Thomas Spina Jr., the assistant federal prosecutor who prosecuted the case, Eddie Bauer was tipped off by an eBay user that someone was selling new store merchandise at a discounted cost. Eddie Bauer then bought some of the merchandise, Spina said, and, upon confirming it was stolen, turned over the information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which tracked it to Pettalino’s home computer through her IP address—a series of numbers unique to each computer logged onto the Internet.

FBI agents went to Pettalino’s home with a search warrant on Aug. 21, 2003, the court documents say, and found: $9,225.12 worth of stolen Eddie Bauer merchandise, the computer used to sell the merchandise, and a map of North America with marks on the states and countries to which the merchandise had been mailed, the court documents say.

On that same day, the documents say, Pettalino was inter-viewed by the FBI, and admitted to her participation in the scheme.

Using information from Pettalino, Spina said, the Colonie Police were able to catch the driver, Lionel Young, on a surveillance camera stealing from the store. Young was arrested and now faces charges in Albany County court.

EBay, which began operation in 1995, is an Internet auction site used by over 147 million people worldwide. According to Spina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has seen an increase in Internet scams and stolen goods sold over the Internet as eBay use has in-creased.

Hani Durzy, a spokesperson for eBay, told The Enterprise that eBay forbids the sale of anything illegal on its site.

"If it’s illegal to sell off of eBay, you can’t do it on eBay," Durzy said.

Although the company monitors its site for other policy violations, such as the sale of guns, eBay has no way of knowing if merchandise is stolen. EBay connects sellers to buyers, it does not directly handle any merchandise.

"We’re not asking them to show us a receipt," Durzy said.

Instead, eBay employs a Fraud Investigation Team, which includes a former U.S. prosecutor and a former member of Scotland Yard, to work with law enforcement agencies, encouraging them to check the site when trying to recover stolen property.

Though eBay is often used by thieves, Durzy said, "Usually, you read about them in a the con-text of them getting busted."

All eBay auctioneers have to register with a name, address, e-mail address, and phone number, Durzy said, which makes it easy to track down criminals.

Chased: Altamont cops foray into Knox

By Matt Cook

KNOX—At least one Knox resident is bothered by the intrusion of the Altamont Police into Knox.

Pauline Williman complained to the Knox Town Board Tuesday about a recent incident in which an Altamont Police car followed her through the village and up the hill into Knox as far as Old Stage Road.

Last year, after Altamont residents complained to the village board about the number of Altamont Police officers and overly-aggressive enforcement, a committee studied the matter, surveying residents and businesses, and producing a report critical of a police commissioner who can’t make arrests and of so many part-time officers. Currently, Altamont Trustee Harvey Vlahos heads a commit-tee that is to decide how to con-figure the Altamont Police Department.

At the Knox meeting, Williman said she was speaking on behalf of her right foot, which maintained the speed limit of 30 miles per hour through Altamont.

"My right foot hoped the cop would have stopped and said something," Williman said. "It would have spoken back in no uncertain terms."

Williman said she was not breaking any laws. The Altamont Police should stay in Altamont, she said.

"I don’t think these guys should be hanging around the town of Knox and following people," she said.

Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond said the town does not have a contract with the Altamont Police. Since Knox doesn’t have its own police department, it is patrolled by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police.

Hammond said he, too, has seen Altamont Police in Knox, but guessed that they may be en route to the Altamont Reservoir, which is owned by the village but located in Knox. Hammond recommended that Williman bring her complaint to Altamont Mayor Jim Gaughan.

Town attorney John Dorfman informed Williman of a recent New York State Court of Appeals decision that he said may or may not be relevant. The court upheld tickets issued by New York City Police officers in Dutchess County, where the city has water rights.

"I’m not too impressed with the court of appeals right now, either," Williman said.

Altamont’s Commissioner of Public Safety, Robert Coleman, who heads the Altamont Police Department, told The Enterprise that police officers only pull drivers over outside of Altamont if the violation is committed in Altamont but it is unsafe to stop immediately, for example, on the bend in Route 156 as it climbs into the Hilltowns.

"You don’t want to stop some-one on the bend," Coleman said. "It’s a safety issue"

Officers do patrol the Altamont Reservoir, Coleman said, and any arrests made there are prosecuted in Knox Town Court. However, he said, between Altamont and the reservoir, police officers don’t stop anyone.

Other business:
In other business at its May 10 meeting, the Knox Town Board:

—Approved a replacement trailer home for Anna Kabler, of Warners Lake Road. According to the town’s trailer ordinance, the only new trailers allowed in the town are replacements for trailers that were there before the ordinance was passed;

—Approved hiring Rich Koonz, of East Berne, to seed the new soccer field in the town park for $5,500. Koonz will use the hydroseeding method, Hammond said, and will extract rocks with a power rake;

—Discussed, in executive session, contract negotiations with the town’s highway employees. Hammond told The Enterprise that the town is close to reaching an agreement; and

—Renewed the town’s health insurance contract with Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan, effective June 1.

In a quarter century, Schanz reaches P.O.’s top rung

By Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE—Dianne Schanz has worked her way up the ladder. When she be-came a rural postal carrier in Berne in 1979, she thought the postal service was a good career move, she said. She turned out to be right.

Schanz was sworn in last Tuesday as the postmaster for the Rensselaerville post office. Though she was appointed a year ago, the manager of post office operations, Joe Fannan was not available for the ceremony until this week.

The best part of her work, Schanz said, is interacting with the community.

"Working with the public is most satisfying," she said.

Schanz is a Berne native and a graduate of Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School. She still lives in Berne, with her husband, David.

As a postmaster, Schanz is responsible for, among other things, sorting mail, waiting on customers, and supervising a rural postal carrier.

As the only representative of the federal government in a small town, Schanz views herself as a "goodwill ambassador" to the people of Rensselaerville.

"Part of having us there is having us as a role model," Schanz said.

Before coming to Rensselaerville, Schanz worked for eight years in the Altamont post office.

Post offices are central to a small town, and acknowledging that, Rensselaerville postal customers welcomed her with open arms, Schanz said.

"The customers have just been so generous and so kind," Schanz said. "They just really took to me."

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