Suspected stove thief sentenced on probation violation

Posted Jan. 08, 2009, at 3:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A man accused of illegally selling pellet stoves from a now-defunct Bangor retailer will spend the next 90 days in jail on a probation vio-lation.

Benjamin Tibbetts III, 33, of Glenburn, still awaits a trial, however, on theft charges stemming from the stove sales. All indications on Thursday were that he plans to fight those claims.

“I urge you to look at him not as a conviction,” his wife, Grace Tibbetts, told Justice William Anderson at a hearing in Penobscot County Superior Court. “He is innocent, and I’m confident that the truth will come out in a trial.”

Tibbetts, who wore a black pinstriped suit, also addressed the court and maintained his innocence in a series of alleged thefts from Sunrise Home and Hearth, a pellet stove retailer where he was employed as a manager.

According to court docu-ments, police believe that Tib-betts, over a lengthy period of time last year, sold customers stoves at a reduced rate and then kept the money.

Sunrise Home and Hearth has since gone out of business, and its owner, Shirley Bartlett, has sued Tibbetts for contribut-ing to the demise of the busi-ness. Several customers also have complained that they have not received stoves or refunds from their dealings with Sun-rise Home and Hearth.

Tibbetts’ attorney Jeffrey Silverstein, however, said the pellet stove retailer was having financial problems long before his client was hired in January 2007.

“He’s worked very hard and turned his life around,” Silver-stein said of Tibbetts.

Still, the case involving Tib-betts is much more complicated than the charges for which he awaits trial.

His criminal history, which was outlined in court by Deputy District Attorney Michael Rob-erts, dates back to 2004, when he was convicted for writing a series of bad checks. A year later, Roberts said, Tibbetts was caught stealing guns from a business. Also in 2005, Tib-betts and another man stole a fuel oil truck from an Old Town business and then sold the con-tents at a deep discount to cus-tomers while pocketing the proceeds.

Silverstein maintained that all of Tibbetts’ prior crimes were precipitated by a drug addiction. Following his con-viction and 9-month suspended jail sentence for the theft of the fuel truck, Tibbetts enrolled in and graduated from the Penob-scot County Adult Drug Court program. He also said he has given his life over to God and is active in church, the place where he met his wife.

“His life today is completely different than it was a couple years ago,” Silverstein said.

And yet, Tibbetts has not been absolved. His recent al-leged criminal conduct oc-curred after he completed the Drug Court program.

For those reasons, Roberts recommended a full probation revocation, which would have been five years in prison. When Tibbetts was sentenced on the fuel truck theft, that’s the amount that was suspended.

Anderson, however, said since Tibbetts has not techni-cally admitted that he violated probation by committing new crimes, a full revocation was not appropriate. Tibbetts did admit to violation probation by possessing alcohol, though. For that, Silverstein and Roberts agreed on a 90-day sentence.

Tibbetts’ case will be consid-ered for trial as early as next month, which would be before his current sentence is com-pleted.

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