BANGOR, Maine — Seven law enforcement partners who quickly caught an armed pharmacy robber in Millinocket and customs and border patrol agents who nabbed two men in Houlton running a scam that bilked victims out of thousands of dollars were among 32 crime fighters honored this week by the United States Attorney for Maine.
U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said he and his staff handle hundreds of cases each year and the 17 officers honored Thursday at a ceremony in Bangor, and 15 others given accolades Wednesday in Portland, have all performed above and beyond the call of duty.
“It’s a small thank you for the work you do,” Delahanty said just before calling up the first honorees at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Thursday.
A flat tire and an inquisitive U.S. border patrol agent led to the arrest and prosecution of two Canadian men for bilking more than $150,000 from their victims through “the grandson scam,” he said. Patrol Agent Sean McDonough pulled in behind the pair to warn them they had a flat tire, and the men gave conflicting stories about when and where they entered the U.S., Delahanty said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Gerald Hammond was called and he brought over his drug- and cadaver-sniffing dog Dorsta, who indicated the presence of contraband in the trunk.
In the spare tire well, agents found more than $100,000 in cash and Western Union travelers checks that had been scammed from grandmothers, including a woman in Presque Isle, Delahanty said.
“By falsely telling her her grandson was being held by authorities in Canada,” Michael Angelo Giuffrida, 24, and Nour-El-Dean Mouneimneh, 22, both of Quebec City, scammed her out of more than $60,000, the U.S. attorney said.
The investigation uncovered other scammed grandmothers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Jersey, which resulted in two-year federal prison sentences for both men, he said.
The efforts led to more than $100,000 being returned to the victims, including the Presque Isle woman and her son, who received a little more than $53,000,” Delahanty said.
Dorsta wore a name tag and stood beside the four border patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents during the presentation. When Delahanty got to the dog, he reached down, gave her a pat and thanked her by name.
“She found the money because it was covered with narcotics,” Hammond said of his 6 1/2-year-old Belgian shepherd after the ceremony.
The second partnership involved members of seven law enforcement agencies quickly working together in August 2011 to catch an armed man who walked into the Rite Aid in Millinocket demanding painkillers.
“This case involved many law enforcement agencies at the municipal, county, state and federal level,” Delahanty said. “The cooperation is really what made this case a success.”
Nicholas Skoby, then 29, walked into the pharmacy and said to an employee, “Give me Ritalin and Percocets or else you die,” Delahanty said. “He pulled up his shirt and displayed a 9mm [gun]. He told her she had five seconds and [then] started to count.”
Another employee behind the counter “pleaded with him not to kill them,” Delahanty said.
Within four minutes, responding officers from Millinocket Police Department had a description of a suspect vehicle and East Millinocket Police, Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s office of Air and Marine and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were scouring the area.
The vehicle was located by a warden pilot about 30 minutes later and a high-speed chase ensued, ending with the capture of the still-armed Skoby.
“The investigation of the robbery was a true team effort, Delahanty said.
“It’s what we do every day,” Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said. “We do it seamlessly and the results are almost always positive from it. There are no turf wars going on in Penobscot County.”
The Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office typically holds its annual awards ceremony to coincide with National Crime Victims’ Week, which is April 21-28 this year. Others honored include:
• Jay police Detective Richard Caton IV and ATF Special Agent Christopher Durkin for the arrest and conviction of Roger Briscoe, who stole 19 firearms. Briscoe was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.
• Skowhegan Detective Kelly Hooper, who tirelessly “stuck with the case” and was able to collect enough evidence to convict Paul Garland and Forrest Goodwin Jr. for the robbery of the Taconnet Federal Credit Union.
• Waterville police Detective Duane H. Cloutier and Dexter resident Robert Fritsch, a former Connecticut lawman who had 11 firearms stolen from him, for their efforts to recover the weapons and charge Jerome Richard, who was on heroin and cocaine. Richard was sentenced to four years in federal prison.
• Sanford police Detective Barbara “Amy” Gagne and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Matthew Fasulo for the successful prosecution of Royce Breton, who hacked a computer and used it to produce and distribute child pornography. He was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison.
• FBI special agent Patrick Clancy for his work collecting online child pornography evidence against Jonathan Fenton, who was convicted and sentenced to five years in federal prison.
• Naval Criminal Investigative Service, NCIS Agent-in-Charge Jeremy Gauthier and ATF fire inspector John M. Morris for their investigation into the two arsons on the USS Miami, a nuclear attack submarine, that led to the conviction of Casey Fury, who was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison.
• ATF agent Douglas Kirk, Lewiston police task force agent Ryan Rawstron and the Lewiston PD; Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Central Maine Violent Crime Task Force and ATF agents for their participation in Operation Hot Spot, to reduce crime in Lewiston.
• Scarborough police Officer Joshua Guay for his five years on a federal Drug Enforcement Agency task force that played a vital role in a number of high-level drug convictions.
• Maine State Police computer crimes unit forensic analyst Christopher Hall for his thorough analysis of evidence in the possession of child pornography case against Brian K. Rogers of Brunswick.
• Maine State Police computer crimes unit Detective Laurie Northrup for the successful prosecution of Shawn Sayer for stalking and posting false information on the Internet about the victim, whom he harassed for years.