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Medford man pleads guilty to conspiring to rob

Targeted Norwood business in 2012

A Medford man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Boston to conspiring with two career criminals in an elaborate scheme resembling a Hollywood plot to rob a Norwood check cashing business.

John Salvucci, 67, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and will be sentenced Dec. 17, court records show. His lawyer could not be reached.

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The caper began in January 2012 when Salvucci informed a witness, who cooperated with the FBI, of a plan to rob Forest Hills Check Cashing, along with two men with lengthy criminal histories, FBI Special Agent Daniel R. Romanzo wrote in an affidavit. Those men were later identified as James Chambers, 54, and George Whalen, 57.

The trio had a plan to kidnap the Forest Hills owner from his home and have him disable the security system at the business before turning over its money, Romanzo said. The owner is 76 years old. During conversations that the witness secretly recorded, Salvucci described Chambers and Whalen as “real serious guys” who will “never go back [to prison]. They’ll end up dead before they go back,” Romanzo wrote.

Salvucci allegedly added, “Nobody’s gonna get hurt. These are [expletive] pros. That’s all they do. They’re [expletive] pros. They got all the gear in the world. They’re not worried about [the owner]. The only thing they’re worried about is the cops.”

Salvucci was talking to the witness in an effort to get him to join the plot.

The three would-be robbers visited the check cashing business during a snowstorm on Jan. 21, 2012, to inspect the building, Romanzo wrote. Chambers and Whalen bought bubble gum and scratch tickets and asked about cashing personal checks. The men also walked around the exterior of the building and drove around the area, according to the affidavit, continuing their preparations for a robbery.

In testimony, Romanzo said during a hearing that authorities seized several items from the homes of the three men including handcuffs, brass knuckles, knives, a bulletproof vest, a loaded revolver, a club, ski masks, rubber gloves, and even a “white goalie mask similar to the character Jason wore in the horror movie,” according to a transcript.

Whalen’s criminal record includes a federal conviction in 1992 in Rhode Island for an attempted robbery of an armored car with three other defendants, for which he received a 20-year prison sentence, records show.

Chambers’s history includes a federal conviction in 1989 in Massachusetts for six counts of bank robbery, which brought him an 18-year sentence, according to records.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, the owner of the Norwood business, who declined to be named, lamented “the whole psyche of what’s going on in people’s minds today of give me, give me, give me, or take, take, take, instead of going out and working for a living.”

Chambers and Whalen have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges and are awaiting trial.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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