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Two Mass. men allegedly tried to rob an accused Maine pot dealer in a hot tub

One night in May, a reputed marijuana dealer in York, Maine, slid into his hot tub with three other people. Then two masked assailants burst in with guns, and he really found himself in hot water.

The gun-toting suspects, federal prosecutors allege, were Eric Mercado, 32, of Lowell, Mass., and Steven Hardy, 42, of Maynard, Mass. Mercado had hatched a plan to rob the victim after his own drug business took a hit when he lost a large amount of cocaine, legal filings allege.

At one point before the home invasion, Mercado allegedly texted a co-conspirator, laying out his reason for targeting the York man: “Because I’m dead [expletive] broke and was rich a week ago,” according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Maine.

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That’s where Mercado and Hardy, who were arrested Monday, face charges of conspiring to interfere with commerce by robbery, prosecutors said. Their initial appearances in US District Court in Portland haven’t been scheduled.

The crime occurred around 1:20 a.m. on May 11 at a home on Rowe Falls Lane, according to the complaint. The victim is identified only as R.S. in court documents.

He got a call May 10 from a man named Nathaniel Rivera, who told R.S. that he was with “two girls,” the complaint says. Rivera and the women came by the residence and drank booze with R.S., before the foursome got in the tub, records show.

Rivera is also charged criminally in connection with the case. His lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

As the crew relaxed in the tub, bedlam suddenly ensued when “two masked men entered the residence,” one with a shotgun and one with a handgun, the complaint says.

The man with the shotgun, later identified as Mercado, ordered R.S. into a bathroom, but the suspected pot dealer refused and tried to run, records show. He was shot in the foot but grabbed a liquor bottle and smacked one of the gunmen before escaping to a neighbor’s house, the complaint says.

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A co-conspirator identified in court records as CD-1 later gave investigators a detailed account of the scheme, legal filings show. The complaint says CD-1 “had been in the hot tub with R.S.” before the gunmen appeared.

According to the complaint, CD-1 identified Mercado and Hardy as the gunmen and said the trio met days before the robbery to plan the caper. Mercado, CD-1 said, is “a longtime friend with a history of committing robberies,” as well as a dope pusher “dealing with financial problems after losing cocaine worth thousands of dollars.”

The court papers also note that R.S.’s home security system captured the violent encounter and said one of the women in the tub “has an appearance consistent with the appearance of” Mercado’s wife.

In addition, CD-1 told police proceeds of the robbery were expected to fall “between $100,000 and $200,000,” records show. The complaint doesn’t say how much cash, if any, the robbers made off with.

The public defender who represented Hardy on Monday during his appearance in federal court in Worcester declined to comment, except to confirm that Hardy agreed to be transferred to Maine to face the charges.

It wasn’t immediately clear who’s representing Mercado. He was arrested Monday in Georgia.


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

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