BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — His story touched the older women who lived in the upscale condo complex in downtown Salem.
To the mostly elderly residents of The Essex on Church Street, James Medaglia, 40, of Medford, was a struggling single dad working as a maintenance man for the condo’s property management company, Crowninshield Management, residents said.
At least 11 of them agreed to hire Medaglia for “side jobs” working inside their units, paying him anywhere from $80 to $150.
One woman even agreed to sell him her car, allowing him to pay in installments of $200 a month and handing over the title. She received just $260.
Another, 63 years old, accidentally post-dated a check to Medaglia. He allegedly called and yelled at her, demanding a new check, then cashed both.
And then they began to notice that their jewelry was disappearing.
Salem police now estimate that “tens of thousands of dollars” worth of jewelry, some of it family heirlooms, were pawned by Medaglia, as far back as January, shortly after he was hired, according to a police report.
Yesterday, many of the women were in Salem District Court as Medaglia appeared for a pre-trial hearing in his case.
He was arrested earlier this month on a warrant charging him with felony larceny by single scheme, larceny by check and larceny by false pretense, as well as receiving stolen property.
Medaglia has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but during yesterday’s hearing, his attorney, Neil Hourihan, suggested that he had been in discussions with the district attorney to resolve the case short of trial.
A prosecutor, meanwhile, told the judge that police are working on filing additional charges in the case.
Salem police began receiving reports in August from residents reporting that jewelry was missing from their units.
They suspected Medaglia — who, it turns out, had just been fired by Crowninshield, not for theft but for doing the side jobs on company time he was supposed to be spending working in common areas.
Salem police Detective Sgt. Kristian Hanson began checking area pawn shops after another detective, Thomas Brennan, immediately recognized Medaglia’s name from the reports pawn shops are required to submit to police.
Eventually, Hanson found some of the missing jewelry, as well as other items pawned by Medaglia. But other items were long gone, pawned months earlier. Most communities require pawn shops to hold items for just 30 days.
One of the rings that was found was worth more than $5,000. The owner of that ring spotted it at a shop in Salem. Police now have it as evidence.
Medaglia’s name was recorded on transactions for wedding rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pendants at several pawn shops in Salem and Peabody, police said.
The police report described the amount of jewelry pawned by Medaglia as “abnormal.”
Hanson also learned about the 88-year-old woman who sold her car to Medaglia with the understanding that he’d make regular payments of $200. She also gave him the title. He made one payment, then just $60 more.
And on Aug. 8, the 63-year-old resident gave Medaglia a check for $80 for work he supposedly did in her unit. She accidentally dated the check Aug. 9, and, police say, Medaglia was unable to cash the check immediately.
Medaglia “called and yelled at her and told her he needed the money now and demanded a new check,” which the woman provided. Medaglia cashed that check, and then cashed the post-dated check as well, police allege.
Medaglia, who also goes by his middle name, Troy Medaglia, is currently free on $500 bail.
At the time he was hired, Medaglia had no Massachusetts criminal record. However, he was charged in March with drug conspiracy in Lynn, a case that was subsequently dismissed.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.