EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 22, 2013

Purse thief preyed on park visitors

SALEM, Mass. — Women who enjoy walking through the North Shore’s many recreational areas were the target of a Lawrence man who admitted in court yesterday to breaking into their cars to steal the handbags and wallets they’d left locked inside.

Eric Mansfield, 42, was sentenced to five to six years in state prison after pleading guilty yesterday to breaking into five cars parked at Hood’s Pond in Topsfield, Bradley Palmer State Park in Hamilton and Maudslay State Park in Newburyport over a nearly five-month period in 2011.

The sentence was the result of a plea agreement reached between prosecutors Jean Curran and Ashlee Logan and defense lawyer Mark Schmidt, and accepted by Salem Superior Court Judge John Lu.

Under the terms of the deal, a charge of being a common and notorious thief — reflecting Mansfield’s lengthy record of similar crimes — was dropped. Instead, Mansfield pleaded guilty to five counts of breaking and entering, six counts of larceny, and six counts of credit card fraud.

The thefts occurred between April and September of 2011, the first one reported in Newburyport, where two women had locked their purses and wallets in a car while walking at Maudslay State Park. They later discovered that their credit cards had been used, Logan told the judge yesterday.

That was Mansfield’s pattern, prosecutors say. He frequently used the cards very soon after stealing them, often at a gas station. Then, if the cards were still active, he would try for bigger purchases. In the case of the Newburyport women, that meant trips to two nearby Walmart stores on the same day, April 27, where he rang up fraudulent charges of more than $500 at one store, in Plaistow, N.H., and then tried to do the same at the second store in Methuen, where the card was declined.

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