BANGOR, Maine — The Dixmont couple who faced numerous charges stemming from the robbery of a Rite Aid pharmacy in Newport twice last fall pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon.
Jonah Masse, 26, of Dixmont pleaded guilty to two counts of pharmacy robbery and Sydney Duff, 21, a Canadian citizen living in Dixmont, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting both robberies, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II.
According to court records, Masse entered the Rite Aid pharmacy on Aug. 16, 2012, and Sept. 16, 2012, and each time handed the pharmacist a note stating he had a gun and wanted oxycodone and hydromorphone pills. He obtained more than $500 worth of drugs during each robbery.
The estimated wholesale cost of the drugs was more than $1,500, but Newport police said in September their street value was about $6,000.
Duff, who had been living with Masse at his parents’ home in Dixmont, wrote the demand notes and drove Masse to the pharmacy both times. No gun was used in the robberies.
Both defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000 for each robbery. They also could be ordered to pay restitution.
They will be sentenced after the completion of the U.S. Probation Office’s pre-sentence investigation reports, which typically take 60 to 90 days, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney James L. McCarthy.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; the Newport, Brewer and Pittsfield police departments; and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
Last year saw a pronounced spike in pharmacy robberies in Maine, which averaged just over one per week with a total of 54. Things appear to have slowed down or at least leveled off since the new year has begun.
“I think we’ve had three this year so far, but we’re just in March,” said Delahanty. “I’d rather not get into speculation as to why there was a rise and a tail-off, but we believe it’s related at least in part to the availability of drugs on the street and how easy or difficult it is to find them.”
Delahanty said quantity and quality are also key reasons.
“There are other instances where they’re going to a pharmacy because they believe they can get a larger quantity of drugs, and maybe they are also thinking it would be of a higher quality than something they could find on the street, where there’s always a danger that the product isn’t what it’s represented to be, or isn’t as genuine,” Delahanty said.