ROCKLAND, Maine — Three men accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in stainless steel from a local company were in court Wednesday, the result of a two-year investigation by local police.
The thefts from Steel-Pro’s storage facility in Thomaston during a three-month stretch in early 2011 totaled more than $83,000, according to law enforcement officials.
One man, David S. Oakes, 45, of South Thomaston, pleaded no contest in Knox County Superior Court to felony theft as part of a judicial process known as a deferred disposition. That means the charge will be lowered to a misdemeanor if he refrains from criminal conduct for the next 12 months, pays restitution of at least $2,000 and testifies truthfully at any future court hearings connected to the case.
If he meets those conditions, he will be sentenced to no more than 30 days in jail with the defense able to argue for less time. If he fails to meet those terms, he will be sentenced on a felony theft conviction and could face up to five years in jail.
Oakes’ attorney Eric “Rick” Morse said the prosecution’s case against his client rests solely on statements from co-defendant Daniel Roy, who has a criminal record.
“This plea is a way to manage risks,” Morse said about avoiding a trial.
Roy, 26, of Union and Robert R. Demmons Jr., 38, of Owls Head have both been charged with felony theft of stainless steel from Steel-Pro. The Rockland metal fabrication company has a storage facility in Thomaston, where police allege the thefts occurred.
Roy and Demmons did not enter pleas in court Wednesday.
The three men were charged in March 2013.
The investigation started in early 2011 when Thomaston police received repeated reports from Steel-Pro that 5-by-20-foot sheets of stainless steel weighing 2,000 pounds each had been stolen from a gated storage area.
During the investigation, police found that Demmons had called a towing company on the night of one of the thefts after his truck broke its axle inside the gated area of Steel-Pro’s property. The lock to the gate had been cut.
Police also received information from informants that Demmons had bragged about stealing the material. One time he was inside the gate when a cruiser drove by, but was not spotted, according to a police affidavit.
The police probe determined that Roy had purchased speciality tools needed to cut the stainless steel into smaller pieces. A local machine shop owner also told police that Oakes and Demmons had used his shop on a couple occasions to cut up steel.
The scrap metal was then sold to scrap metal dealers, according to police, including numerous deliveries to a metal recycling center in Auburn.