Former Calais hardware store manager sentenced to home confinement, probation

Posted June 08, 2011, at 10:08 a.m.
Last modified June 08, 2011, at 6:24 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A former manager of a Calais hardware store was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to two years of probation, including five months of home confinement, for violating federal gun laws.

Ronald Hatton, 58, of Calais pleaded guilty last year to transferring a firearm to a nonresident.

In addition to probation, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ordered Hatton to pay a $2,000 fine.

Hatton was the fourth former employee of Johnson’s True Value Hardware  to be sentenced for violating federal gun laws. The store’s owner has not been charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hatton’s sentencing was delayed because he has been undergoing treatment for cancer, according to court documents.

In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said that home confinement would allow Hatton to continue receiving treatment locally. Were it not for Hatton’s illness, the judge said he would have sent the defendant to federal prison for five months.

Charges against Hatton and five others were the result of a joint operation of agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency. It was designed to curtail the flow of guns into Canada from Maine.

Hatton was not involved in the conspiracy to smuggle guns purchased in Maine into Canada, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who prosecuted the cases, said Wednesday. Hatton did admit that he sold a gun to a male resident knowing that person would turn it over to a Massachusetts man who turned out to be an undercover ATF agent.

The investigation that led to Johnson’s True Value Hardware in Calais apparently began in June 2006, when the owner of a Machias gun shop canceled the sale of eight 9 mm pistols to Lawrence Sears, 65, of Perry. The Machias store owner, according to court documents, alerted the ATF that he suspected the man was buying guns for another individual.

In an interview with investigators, Sears admitted that he had tried to buy guns in Machias for Andrew Porter, 36, of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, from the store. Sears also admitted that he bought guns in June 2006 for Porter in Brewer.

Porter was sentenced to 2½ years in prison and Sears to 1½ years.

Store employees were sentenced to the following amounts of jail time based on their level of involvement in the conspiracy and their criminal histories:

• Leo Blais, 71, Robbinston, six months.

• Bruce Thibeault, 36, Calais, a year and a day.

• Kurt Carter, 44, Alexander, 2½ years.

All faced up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

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