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Time served for robbery in Salem

BRENTWOOD - A Haverhill, Mass., man who posed as a 16-year-old girl online and later a federal agent so he could rob a 25-year-old man in Salem was given a time-served jail sentence.

John Ruth, 48, pleaded guilty to theft and false personation charges on Friday as part of an agreement with county prosecutors.

Ruth entered his plea roughly a week before his trial was set to begin in Rockingham County Superior Court.

He had already spent 22 days in jail, which counted toward a largely suspended six-month county jail term, according to terms of the agreement.

Prosecutors agreed to drop a false imprisonment charge as part of the negotiated plea deal.

Had Ruth been convicted by a jury, he could have faced up to 3 ½ to 7 years in state prison on the felony charges.

Police said Ruth met the victim last Feb. 12 at a parking lot along Route 111 in Salem.

The 25-year-old man, also from Haverhill, Mass., believed he was meeting with a 16-year-old girl who he had chatted with online.

Instead, Ruth arrived and asked for the man's identification and frisked him, prosecutors said.

Ruth went to his car with the man's car keys and money clip, pretending he was checking the man's identification.

Ruth returned the items a few minutes later - but without $146 in cash, according to prosecutors.

When questioned by police, Ruth admitted to meeting the victim, and "going online and posing as young girls to catch sexual offenders," Salem police Officer Matthew MacKenzie said in a sworn affidavit.

The victim in the case was from Haverhill, Mass. Police do not know why Ruth chose New Hampshire to meet with the victim.

Massachusetts State Police also questioned Ruth who admitted to investigators, "that he communicated with other subjects online" from his home in Haverhill, court records show.

The victim gave Ruth's license plate number to Salem police. They tracked down the vehicle to a car rental company out of Haverhill, Mass. The vehicle had been rented by Ruth's 70-year-old mother, according to police.

The mother told police that her son had the rental car after he dropped her off at the airport.

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