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Hampton Falls standoff suspect linked to burglaries, fake-cop ploy

Union Leader Correspondent

August 26. 2014 9:30PM

BRENTWOOD — During an eight-hour standoff with police, prosecutors said Daren Gragg shredded stolen mail while holed up in an apartment full of evidence that linked him to unsolved burglaries and identity fraud and a ploy to obtain prescription drugs at a Londonderry health care facility by impersonating a police officer.

Gragg, 37, of Hampton Falls, pleaded guilty to more than a dozen charges Tuesday as prosecutors laid out how police discovered a trove of evidence following the Jan. 15 standoff.

The evidence was linked to other Seabrook and Londonderry crimes dating back to 2011.

Dozens of police officers from Massachusetts and New Hampshire responded to the apartment building after Gragg and his 32-year-old girlfriend, Melissa Amato, barricaded themselves inside.

“When they got into the apartment, it was full of items, full of weapons, full of stolen mail,” Assistant County Attorney Terri Harrington said. “The shredder was running.”

Gragg was sentenced to a five- to 10-year prison term as part of a negotiated plea deal.

He pleaded guilty to theft by unauthorized taking, burglary, identity theft and being a felon in possession of weapons.

Harrington told Judge David Anderson that police undertook a painstaking reconstruction of some of the shredded documents, including stolen mail from Massachusetts.

Gragg and Amato were first approached in Amesbury, Mass., earlier in the day at a local gas station.

“It appeared they had fallen asleep while pumping gas,” Harrington said. “Police became suspicious. Their car appeared to be full of stolen items.”

Gragg and Amato fled in their car, setting off a search by police that led them to the couple’s Hampton Falls apartment.

Harrington said Gragg was charged with receiving stolen property for being in possession of valuables stolen from multiple cars in Seabrook months earlier. Those cases were unsolved until the search, according to Harrington.

Police found stolen purses and driver’s licenses along with merchandise taken from a Wal-Mart in Seabrook. Harrington said some stolen merchandise was returned for store credit.

Police also learned from the search that in 2011, Gragg went to Elliot Urgent Care at Londonderry dressed in clothing that had a law enforcement insignia on it. Gragg was attempting to get prescription drugs.

“He was trying to pass himself off as an active police officer from Massachusetts and New Hampshire,” Harrington said. “He did not have a badge. He had clothing with an insignia. He gave false names and said he was on active duty.”

Harrington said Gragg was not charged in that case because prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. “He was right on the line with the impersonation charge,” she said.

Gragg could face federal charges for the stolen mail. He was ordered to have no contact with 30 people related to his cases, including Amato.

Gragg will not be allowed to enter a Wal-Mart for 10 years. Anderson also barred Gragg from possessing any clothing bearing a law enforcement insignia, or a badge — real or fake — of any law enforcement agency.

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