January 25, 2013

Augusta pharmacy robbers to face federal prosecution

Federal, state arrangement meant to stem burgeoning drug holdups problem in capital; Kennebec and Somerset counties district attorney plans to continue arrangement

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- It's the new normal for pharmacy robberies in Maine's capital city: Suspects will be hunted by both Augusta police and the FBI and will face federal prosecution.

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Anthony Post, 19, of Lewiston, charged with robbing the CVS pharmacy on Stone Street in Augusta on Tuesday, is the first person to be turned over to federal prosecution under a new agreement between state and federal law enforcement officials.

Contributed photo

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Maeghan Maloney

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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The arrest this week of a man who police say robbed the CVS on Stone Street on Tuesday highlights the arrangement with federal officials, which comes in the wake of a record number of pharmacy robberies in Maine in 2012. Augusta had nine, the most of any municipality.

The close cooperation between federal and state authorities is designed to stem what police are calling an epidemic of pharmacy robberies. The prosecution in U.S. District Court and an investigation aided by the FBI are results of an informal intergovernmental agreement.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, the chief prosecutor in Kennebec and Somerset counties, said her intent is to continue this arrangement, one of a number of things she discussed two weeks ago in a meeting with U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty, the top federal prosecutor in Maine.

"Inter-agency communication and cooperation is one of the hallmarks of an effective judicial system," Maloney said in an email.

"It saves Maine taxpayers money, and it ensures the person who robs the pharmacy will get the maximum sentence," she said, adding of federal officials, "They are able to get longer sentences than we are."

The charge of robbery filed against Anthony Post, 19, of Lewiston, carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. He is accused in Tuesday's robbery of the CVS Pharmacy on Stone Street in Augusta -- the city's first pharmacy robbery this year.

Delahanty said the cooperative arrangement is not unique, and it has worked previously in other jurisdictions in the state. Delahanty said his office steps in at the district attorney's request.

"There is no formal written agreement; it's just kind of an understanding," Delahanty said. "We indicated to them we're willing to help and we're open for business, so to speak."

He said the inter-agency cooperation was first suggested two years ago when state officials, as well as the state Board of Pharmacy, requested federal assistance when the number of pharmacy robberies began to spike.

"After the substantial increase last year, we looked at our role again and requested assistance from the FBI," he said.

The state saw 54 pharmacy robberies in 2012, an increase of 30 from the previous year. Of those 54, nine were in Augusta -- more than any other municipality in Maine.

He noted that the FBI was involved in investigating Tuesday's robbery as well.

"That involvement is a good fit because the response and investigation would be very similar to what they would be doing in a bank robbery," Delahanty said.

Even though federal authorities assist in the investigation, some of the cases are prosecuted under state law, he said, citing a recent one in Sanford.

Delahanty said federal authorities have jurisdiction if the pharmacy is federally licensed, if the wholesale value of the product is more than $500, or if there is any physical injury in the course of the robbery.

"We're very fortunate in the state of Maine. Even with an increase in robberies there has not been serious physical injury," Delahanty said.

He also said he was a meeting of other U.S. attorneys from New England, and it was clear that Maine had far more incidents than the other states.

"I cannot give you a reason for it," he said.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com

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