LINCOLN, Maine — A Mattawamkeag man has been sentenced to four years in prison for six burglaries that were part of more than 25 break-ins in the Lincoln Lakes region last year, officials said Friday.
Stephen Springer, 28, pleaded guilty during an appearance at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Thursday to four counts of burglary, four counts of theft, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of burglary to a motor vehicle, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said.
As part of the plea, Springer admitted in court to burglarizing S.W. Collins Hardware, Roger’s Small Engine Repair and a resident’s motor vehicle in north Lincoln on Oct. 26. He also admitted to burglarizing Motorbrain Consulting Co. on July 23 and Winn Service Center, Winn Equipment Co. and a vending machine, all in Winn, on July 19, Almy said.
Springer admitted some involvement in the burglary rings during his initial court appearance on Oct. 28 after having been arrested on Oct. 26. While the judge and attorney were discussing the bail amount, Springer spoke up, saying, “I screwed up, I know I screwed up. I deserve to do time.”
The burglaries were among 25 reported last summer in Lincoln at Avanti Bridal Salon, Capello Hair Salon, North Country Auto, Tibbetts Building Center, Lincoln News, U.S. Cellular, F.A. Peabody Insurance, Access Auto, Motorbrain, Performance Hair, Richard’s Sports Shop, Shooter’s Billiards Bar and Grille, Thornton Brothers and High-Tech Auto.
Three others have been charged in connection with the burglaries. Brandon Tolman, 25, pleaded no contest during a court appearance on Feb. 10 to two counts each of Class C burglary and Class E theft in connection with break-ins at Motorbrain Consulting and High Performance hair salon of Lincoln on July 23, 2013, a court official said.
Tolman also pleaded guilty and received a four-year sentence on two counts each of Class C burglary, Class E theft, Class C criminal mischief and a single count of Class C aggravated criminal mischief for burglarizing Winn Equipment Co., Winn Service Center and two personal residences on July 19, 2013, a court official said.
Tolman and Springer were also ordered to pay several thousand dollars in restitution to the businesses for the damage done or losses incurred by the burglaries, Almy said. An exact figure was not available.
Jaycee Searles, 20, of Lincoln was sentenced Feb. 10 to 90 days in jail on one count of Class D receiving stolen property and Class D criminal mischief. Several other theft, criminal mischief and burglary counts were dismissed, officials said. An Oct. 30 charge of aggravated criminal mischief against Matthew J. Anderson, 24, of Mattawamkeag, in connection with the Oct. 26 burglaries, is pending, court officials said.
Lincoln police Detective Mark Fucile described the four suspects as the “core group” responsible for the burglaries. At one point, police suspected that as many as a dozen Lincoln area people were involved as accomplices.
“There were other people that we looked at as well,” Fucile said Friday.
“The two major players that we had significant evidence on were Springer and Tolman,” Almy said. “We do not have enough evidence to prove who committed those burglaries” that the suspects were not charged with.
“I appreciated all the work that the police put into this. They did a lot of work,” Almy said. “They kept on the trail and after the evidence, and due to their persistence, we were finally able to catch these two fellows and others who were wreaking havoc with the Winn-Lincoln communities. It took a long time. People say why can’t you catch them? But it’s very difficult.”
The series of burglaries “was a huge learning curve for all of us. We have all learned from this, and we built a strong relationship with a lot of the businesses in town. A lot of [town businesses] have upped their security systems and have become very proactive with us,” Fucile said. “They contact us, and they give us a lot of information and cooperation. Every one of them was eager to work with us.”
State police and Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department officers formed a task force to contend with the burglaries. Trooper Dave Yankowsky helped collect and review evidence with Fucile, taking Fucile to the state police Crime Lab in Augusta. Trooper Jarod Stedman assisted Lincoln police Sgt. Glenn Graef and Officer John Walsh with suspect and witness interviews, Fucile said.
The next burglaries “will be a lot easier for us to work because we will be able to put names with faces now, and [town businesses] understand better how we work,” he added.
BDN reporter Nick McCrea contributed to this report.