Friday May 24, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A man who led police on a two-state vehicle pursuit before abandoning his stolen car in Hinsdale, N.H., and taking off on foot, was arraigned in court in Keene, N.H., Thursday.

According to the Hinsdale Police Department, Joshua Converse, 40, of Richmond, Va., was charged with several violations, including resisting arrest, possession of a controlled drug, loitering and prowling, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief. He is being held at the Cheshire County House of Corrections.

Converse was released from a federal prison in Pennsylvania on July 27, 2012, after serving three years for bank fraud and aggravated identity theft and then was remanded to Florida, where he was released on Oct. 9, 2012, with five years of supervised release.

Converse is wanted by the state of Virginia, where he is known as Robbie Joshua Converse, for violating his parole. A warrant for his arrest was issued on April 16.

In 2008, Converse and Leza Chantel Townsend, now 45, both then of New Hampshire, were accused of obtaining personal identity information or personal checks from victims in Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

According to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Converse and Townsend forged stolen checks in amounts ranging between $250 and $3,500, making them payable to themselves or victims whose driver’s licenses that had been stolen.


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Converse and Townsend then cashed the checks at Merchants Bank and Chittenden Bank in Vermont, the Savings Bank of Walpole and other banks in New Hampshire as well as banks in Massachusetts and Virginia.

The chase began just after noon on Wednesday in Dummerston when the Vermont State Police received a report of an unknown man inside a home on Johnsons Curve Road. According to police, when the homeowner confronted the man, he left without incident. She then called police and provided them with a description of the vehicle -- a Virginia registered silver Toyota Matrix. After running a check on the vehicle, police determined it had been stolen from Richmond, Va., on or about April 10.

Vermont State Police have not yet determined what Converse was doing in the house, but Sgt. Mike Sorensen said it appears there was no personal connection between Converse and the homeowner.

As troopers were responding to the area, a Brattleboro police officer radioed that he had the vehicle in sight and was preparing to stop it on Putney Road. When the officer attempted to stop the vehicle it accelerated through downtown Brattleboro and crossed into Hinsdale.

Brattleboro Police continued to pursue the vehicle, which had lost both of its passenger side tires as a result of striking a curb in the Main Street area, until it entered a field off of Monument Road in Hinsdale.

The operator then abandoned the vehicle and fled into the woods on foot.

Brattleboro police officers and Vermont State Troopers assisted officers from the Hinsdale Police Department for several hours as a search for the subject was undertaken. Police established a perimeter, closed several roads and requested a K-9 unit from the Keene Police Department to assist in the effort to locate the suspect.

At that time, Hinsdale schools were notified as a precaution, due to the students’ pending release from the normal school day. Students due to be transported to the area of the search were held at the school to be picked up by a parent, unless they were being taken directly to a waiting parent.

"At no time was the school staff or students in any danger and there was no need to issue a lockdown order," stated a press release from the Hinsdale Police Department.

Police followed up on several tips, but suspended the search at about 4:45 p.m.

However, representatives from the Hinsdale Police Department and the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Department spoke with residents throughout the affected neighborhood and asked them to "remain vigilant and report any suspicious person or activity in the area."

At about 8:45 p.m., Hinsdale officers were alerted to a suspicious male in the area of 106 Monument Road. Corp. Michael Bomba and Officer Gerald Palmer responded to the area and located the suspect, who again attempted to flee.

He was apprehended and identified as Converse. When questioned, he admitted to being in the house in Dummerston where the initial call came from.

In Vermont, Converse faces a charge of unlawful trespass. He was cited to appear in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division on June 18.

The Virginia arrest warrant was issued because Converse failed to successfully participate in a treatment program, failed to pay restitution, failed to report to his probation officer and failed to submit monthly supervision reports.

Converse and Townsend were originally charged with 14 counts. In addition to his three-year sentence, Converse was ordered to pay more than $38,000 in restitution. Townsend, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay more than $13,000 in restitution.

A phone call to Townsend’s parole officer in Virginia to determine her current status was not returned by press time.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.