Theft suspect gets 3 years for violation

Posted Aug. 26, 2009, at 10:11 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Glenburn man suspected of illegally selling pellet stoves while he was manager for a local retailer was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison, and he may see even more time before the week is over.

Benjamin Tibbetts III, 34, was found guilty and sentenced in Penobscot County Superior Court on a probation violation. He was ordered to serve three years of an original six-year sentence imposed in 2007.

Justice Michaela Murphy said enough evidence existed to conclude that Tibbetts had violated past probation by committing a series of thefts in 2008 that totaled more than $10,000. Tibbetts was sentenced only on a probation revocation and still has to either plead or stand trial on theft charges, which could increase his jail time significantly.

“He has an offer; it’s in his court now,” Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts said after Thursday’s hearing, declining to say what that offer was.

Roberts and Tibbetts’ attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, both hoped to settle the pending charges by Friday.

Tibbetts has been in and out of court for nearly a year related to a series of incidents last year involving his employment at the now-closed Sunrise Home & Hearth.

Murphy outlined the facts of his case as she understood them.

The man began his employment at Sunrise Home & Hearth in January with hopes of one day taking over ownership from Shirley Bartlett. Tibbetts ran the Bangor store with little supervision, but when he took time off for his wedding and honeymoon in July 2008, Bartlett noticed discrepancies in the store’s transaction logs.

Bartlett, who also managed a store in Falmouth, hired two “secret shoppers” to set up potential sales from Tibbetts. In both cases, the Glenburn man sold stoves for cash and reportedly kept the cash for himself.

In addition to those two cases, Murphy concluded that the state had proved at least six other thefts of either cash or product.

Yet even with those serious charges, Tibbetts faced a worse fate because of probation associated with prior burglary and theft convictions, which Roberts outlined at Friday’s hearing.

In March 2004, Tibbetts was convicted of writing a series of bad checks. A month later, he was convicted of burglary and served six months of a 30-month sentence. Tibbetts first violated probation in 2005 when he illegally sold fuel from an oil company he worked for and then pocketed the money. He served nine months in jail on those charges but avoided additional time by enrolling in the Penobscot County Drug Court program. He graduated in July 2007 free of drug addiction and with hopes of rebuilding his life.

About one year later, he faced new charges, which Roberts took as a sign that Tibbetts is “a thief first and a drug addict second.”

Tibbetts’ wife, Grace Tibbetts, doesn’t believe it. She acknowledges his past problems but says he is not guilty in the thefts from 2008.

“My husband is innocent. I carry that truth in my heart,” she told the court Friday.

Tibbetts also maintained his innocence in brief remarks to Murphy. He said God has blessed his life with a wife and six children and he wants to be there for them.

Murphy was sympathetic to the man’s family obligations, but agreed with Roberts that Tibbetts has been given numerous chances at turning his life around. She also said his new crimes showed a very sophisticated level of criminal thinking.

Tibbetts will be held without bail at Penobscot County Jail until his pending theft charges are resolved.

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