April 19, 2014

Harmony Spa landlord to pay fine, keep property

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Harmony Health Spa

Thomas Booska, who owns the property formerly occupied by Harmony Spa, has agreed to pay $100,000 instead of forfeiting the property.

April 17th, 2014

 

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff

The landlord of the Williston massage parlor that closed last summer after allegations of prostitution has settled a forfeiture claim with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Instead of forfeiting the Williston property where Harmony Spa was located, owner Thomas Booska agreed to pay $100,000 to the federal government. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office sent out on Friday, Booska intends to sell the property to “individuals who have previously run a hair and nail salon in Colchester.”
“In a complaint filed on June 28, 2013, the United States alleged that the Williston property owned by Thomas Booska, age 68, of Burlington, Vermont, was forfeitable to the government because it was used to house individuals who were induced or encouraged to come to Vermont from out of state for purposes of engaging in prostitution or other commercial sex acts,” according to the press release. “While admitting that he is the owner of the Williston property and that Harmony Spa had been located at the Williston property, Booska generally denied the allegations of the complaint.”
The property has a history of problems surrounding alleged prostitution.
The complaint alleges that in May 2011, law enforcement officials told Booska that they had received reports of “sex acts taking place at the Harmony Spa,” according to the press release. Booska was also informed that if the acts continued, the property would be subject to forfeiture.
“The complaint further alleged that despite this warning, in the Fall of 2012 and thereafter, Booska was providing housing and transportation to Asian females, who he knew had traveled from out of state to Vermont with the intent of engaging in sexual acts for pay as part of their services at Harmony Spa,” the press release states.
On June 12, 2013, police gathered information from clients leaving Harmony Spa that they had just “received sexual services from employees and provided payment to them,” according to police. Employees at the spa were reportedly also living in the building, which is a violation of local zoning ordinances. The employees were offered “available victim services,” as officials determined that they were “likely victims of a larger scale criminal issue,” according to police.
Booska was cited on charges of “prohibited acts” in mid-June.
A Notice of Verified Complaint of Forfeiture was submitted to U.S. District Court in Vermont by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Ross last July.
Problems at the spa date back to at least 2004, when it was known as Ginza Health Spa. In 2006, a woman was arrested at the property, by then known as Harmony Spa, after she offered sexual services to a man who was an undercover Williston Police officer.

Popcorn: “Muppets Most Wanted” More or Less

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2.5_popcorns

2 & 1/2 popcorns

April 10th, 2014

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

 

Director James Bobin, entrusted with bringing “Muppets Most Wanted” to the silver screen, dives into the toy box of things Muppets and dexterously assembles all the parts that comprise the famed franchise, except for one. Missing from this eighth feature film, as Miss Piggy may be wont to emote in her best French, is the joie de vivre, the je ne sais quoi. Or, as Kermit might plainly croak, it just doesn’t fly off the fat end of the bat.

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PHOTOS: Boiling weather

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Mary and Waldo Siple boil sap last weekend at their operation on South Road.

Mary and Waldo Siple boil sap last weekend at their operation on South Road.

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Recipe Corner: Breakfast with maple

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April 10th, 2014

By Ginger Isham

When we had a bed and breakfast, guests loved this recipe—a couple from Germany wanted them for every breakfast.

Baked Pancakes or Dutch Babies
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
Whip eggs and milk together and stir in flour and salt. Pour batter into two lightly greased 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Bake in 450-degree oven for 15 minutes.
Can dust with powdered sugar, and/or sliced strawberries/blueberries and serve with warmed maple syrup.

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Police Notes

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April 10th, 2014

Driving with suspended license
Samantha Bell, 31, of Milton was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on March 25, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court on May 6.
David Poulin, 49, of Burlington was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on March 26, according to police reports. No other information was released.
Sarah J. Ellwood, 19, of Burlington was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on March 26, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court on April 10.
Timothy A. Luman, 33, of St. Albans was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on March 27, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.
Police notes are written based on information provided by the Williston Police Department and the Vermont State Police. Please note that all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Vermont’s spring turkey hunting starts soon

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This year’s youth spring turkey hunting weekend is April 26-27. The regular spring season is May 1-31. (Observer courtesy photo by John Hall)

This year’s youth spring turkey hunting weekend is April 26-27. The regular spring season is May 1-31. (Observer courtesy photo by John Hall)

April 10th, 2014

Observer staff report
Hunters are gearing up for Vermont’s spring youth turkey hunting weekend later this month and getting ready for the regular spring turkey hunting season that starts May 1.
Youth turkey hunting weekend is April 26-27 this year. Landowner permission is required to hunt on private land, whether or not the land is posted. To be eligible, a youth must be age 15 or under. The youth must have successfully completed a hunter education course and possess a hunting license, a turkey hunting license and a free youth turkey hunting tag. The youth also must be accompanied by an unarmed adult who holds a hunting license and is over 18 years of age. Shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to noon. The youth may take one bearded turkey during youth weekend and two bearded turkeys in the regular May hunting season.

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Health Department urges spring flood preparedness

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Observer staff report
Spring flooding is a potential hazard every year as ice floes break like jagged pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, forming blockages at bridges and tributaries and causing rivers and streams to overflow their banks.
“Flooding is a leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., and most are preventable,” said Chris Bell, director of public health preparedness for the Vermont Department of Health. “Public Health Week (April 7 – 13) is a good time for us all to remind each other not to underestimate the power of water – especially moving water.”
Part of being “Vermont Strong,” Bell said, is to be ready for any hazard, including the possibility of flooding.

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Buying a home: real estate market steady, mortgage rates competitive

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April 10th, 2014

Storm-free’ housing market for 2014
By Matt Sutkoski
Observer correspondent
No, you didn’t miss your chance to buy a house in Vermont when mortgage interest rates hit rock bottom last year.
And no, you don’t have to scramble in 2014 too quickly to still get a reasonable mortgage, or a decently priced home. Just take a deep breath, say Vermont real estate and lending experts, and embrace the state’s relatively stable real estate market.
Vermont’s real estate market is generally immune from the wide swings, the speculation, the booms and busts that have enriched some and impoverished many others across the United States.
“The highs in Vermont are not as high and the lows are not as low,” said Leslie MacKenzie, President and Owner of Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman Realty in Burlington. “We didn’t take any big hits.”

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PHOTOS: Middle school athletes catch spike fever at volleyball clinic

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Alicia Veronneau spikes the volleyball during the clinic.

Alicia Veronneau spikes the volleyball during the clinic.

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CVU tennis teams off to 2-0 start

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Kathy Joseph was one of several Redhawks to win opening tennis matches.

Kathy Joseph was one of several Redhawks to win opening tennis matches.

April 10th, 2014

By Mal BorightObserver correspondent

South Burlington High and Burlington High tennis teams are up next for the Champlain Valley Union High girls and boys combines, who have kicked off their seasons with victories over Mount Mansfield Union (Monday) and St. Johnsbury Academy (Saturday).

The defending Division 1 champion girls will play host to South Burlington Thursday (3:30 p.m.) and Burlington Monday at Davis Park in Shelburne. The boys will be visiting both schools on the same afternoons.

Coach Amy deGroot’s girls rolled up a 7-0 home win over Mount Mansfield as Kathy Joseph, Leah Epstein, MacKenzie Buckman, Elyse Killkelley and Isabelle Angstman prevailed in singles.

The doubles duos of Maia Bertrand-MacKenzie Kingston and Erika Barth-Sara Erikson were also winners.

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