WINTERPORT, Maine — Police say they have several leads to follow after posting images of three men impersonating law enforcement officers — two dressed in black SWAT team gear and one wearing a sheriff’s office uniform and armed with a handgun — wanted for robbing a local medical marijuana patient.
“We have two very good leads on the identity of two of the suspects and a possible lead on the identity of the third,” Lt. Aaron Hayden of the Maine State Police said Tuesday morning.
The only detail he would release about the suspects is that they are from Maine.
The trio went to the Winterport property, the location of which police are not releasing to protect the identity of the landowner, wearing clothing impersonating law enforcement personnel about 7:30 a.m. Sept. 21, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, in a Monday press release.
Hayden said Tuesday that the landowner is a medical marijuana patient.
After allegedly getting into a verbal confrontation with the landowner, the men grabbed an armful of mature marijuana plants and took off running.
The faces of two of the three men, including the armed man who is wearing a sheriff’s office shirt, are clearly visible in surveillance camera images released Monday afternoon by Maine State Police. Investigators believe the armed man is carrying a semi-automatic handgun.
“We received dozens of leads via Facebook and probably another dozen that came through the phone,” Hayden said.
State police detectives have been pursuing each and every lead and are confident they know the identity of all three criminals, the lieutenant said.
“I have investigators conducting follow-ups, and we’re going to meet with the prosecutors,” Hayden said.
At a press conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Augusta, the lieutenant said Winterport is not the only community in Maine being hit by thieves targeting medical marijuana, listing pot thefts within the last week in Standish and Lewiston.
“I do not believe they are connected,” Hayden said of the three thefts. “The Lewiston one is solved, and I’m not sure about the Standish details, [but] I would not connect them at this point.”
Hayden said he mentioned the other thefts because he wanted to demonstrate the prevalence of this type of crime.
The decision was made to release the surveillance pictures from Winterport after a week of working with local police failed to turn up any suspects, Hayden said. Within hours of seeking the public’s help, state police had names of suspects.
Armed robbery with the threat of force is a Class B crime, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars, and impersonating a public official is a misdemeanor Class E crime that can be elevated if committed in association with a another crime.
The theft of the pot also could be a felony, Hayden said.
“Marijuana is going for between $600 and $2,500 a pound,” the lieutenant said. “Depending on what the court recommends as the value [of the stolen marijuana], that could be a felony.”
Those with information about the identities of the three men are asked to call Trooper Elisha Fowlie or Trooper Sarah Ferland at 624-7076.
BDN writer Mario Moretto contributed to this report.