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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Shane Senter leaves courtroom three in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua after his plea and sentencing Monday.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel Shane Senter at his plea and sentencing, Hillsborough County Superior Court, Nashua, November 23 2009.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel Shane Senter at his plea and sentencing, Hillsborough County Superior Court, Nashua, November 23 2009.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Man avoids jail in sci-fi convention scam

NASHUA – Shane Senter dodged jail time and avoided a confrontation with either a victim he scammed or an angry celebrity.

What remains unclear is Senter’s motives in scheduling and then canceling a series of science fiction conventions in 2008 without returning money sent to him by would-be convention attendees. He also incurred the wrath of actor Edward James Olmos, star of the TV series “Battlestar Galactica.

Olmos, who played Admiral Adama in the Sci-Fi Channel series, said that Senter owes him $60,000 in cancellation fees. Olmos publicly slammed Senter during a panel interview at last year’s DragonCon convention in Atlanta and vowed to work with the New Hampshire attorney general’s office “to bring this bastard down.”

However, neither Olmos nor Battlestar co-star Mary McConnell, who also was to headline some of the first shows, flew to Nashua, nor did any of Senter’s other victims appear in court during Senter’s plea and sentencing hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court on Monday.

Senter, 37, of 96 Powers St., Unit 187, Milford, was sentenced to four consecutive, 12-month suspended jail sentences – provided he demonstrates good behavior – and 14 years of probation on the four charges. Four of the years of probation on the two misdemeanor charges are to be concurrent with the 10 years of probation Senter was handed for the two felony charges.

Also in a plea deal approved by Judge Jacalyn Colburn, Senter was ordered to pay $33,824.33 in restitution plus administrative fees.

The money will be disbursed among 51 complainants, Senior Assistant Attorney General Constance Stratton said after the sentencing hearing. Neither Olmos nor any other science-fiction actor is among those complainants, Stratton said.

“No comment,” Senter said as he left the courtroom.

Senter may have to pay an additional $625 in restitution to another victim who sent the court a letter asking to be included.

There may be additional victims, but they weren’t included in the complaint, Stratton said.

Senter pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft charges. He could have faced 31⁄2 to 7 years in prison plus a $4,000 fine for each count. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor deceptive business practices charges, each punishable up by one year in prison plus a $2,000 fine.

Under the plea deal, he was also ordered to not own or operate a business that would accept payment “prior to producing promised goods or services.”

Taking a bunch of payments without producing promised goods or services is what landed Senter in hot water, prosecutors said.

Senter filed for bankruptcy after his arrest last year. His case lists debts totaling just short of $8 million, and not quite $1,200 in assets, federal bankruptcy court records show. His debts are scheduled to be discharged later this year, court records show.

Senter has remained free on personal recognizance bail since his indictment last spring. Prosecutors reported that they received scores of complaints from people who had sent Senter deposits for lodging and tickets to one of his conventions.

Senter is accused of defrauding four different persons who had paid for tickets and other “related services” for conventions he claimed to have organized in Boston and Stamford, Conn.

Senter was the owner of JumpCon, which he registered as a limited liability corporation in May of last year. He had purported to organize a series of science fiction conventions that would move from one city to another and feature celebrity guests, including actors who had appeared in “Battlestar Galactica” and various Star Trek television series.

The charges allege simply that he took money for deposits, and failed to refund it after abruptly cancelling the conventions.

During the sentencing hearing, Stratton said prosecutors were prepared to prove that Senter “never had the intention or capability to hold the conventions.”

However, a Nashua resident who works putting on science fiction conventions said he believes Senter intended to pull off the convention, but didn’t have the experience or knowledge to do it.

JumpCon’s Web site had caught the attention of people in the industry who were dumbfounded at how anyone could pull off a full schedule of conventions, said Skip Morris, who attended the hearing because of his interest in the case.

Morris said he believes that Senter thought he could make the conventions happen.

“It was obvious he was trying to succeed but he had no idea of what it actually took,” Morris said.

Morris said he works for a company that sponsors Boston conventions for fans of sci-fi artists and authors rather than television series or movies. Pulling off a successful convention typically requires hard work from a staff of 250 people, he said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com.