Rite Aid robbery suspect indicted

KEY EVIDENCE — This surveillance photo, taken Nov. 28, 2013, shows the suspect in the robbery of the Bridgton Rite Aid. A 26-year-old Gardiner man has been indicted for the crime.

KEY EVIDENCE — This surveillance photo, taken Nov. 28, 2013, shows the suspect in the robbery of the Bridgton Rite Aid. A 26-year-old Gardiner man has been indicted for the crime.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A Gardiner man is facing up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for allegedly robbing the Bridgton Rite Aid a year ago.

Robert Richard, 26, of Gardiner was indicted Sept. 23 by a federal grand jury in Portland for the crime, which occurred on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013. Richard, who was charged with Interference with Commerce by Robbery, made his first appearance in federal court last Thursday. A detention hearing was held Tuesday, with a trial date to be set later.

A surveillance photo taken inside the pharmacy may have been a key piece of evidence in the case, which was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bridgton Police Department, with assistance from the Augusta and Gardiner Police Departments and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. The image shows a lone man entering the store around 2:15 p.m. wearing sunglasses and a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt. Police say he handed the pharmacist a note demanding Oxycodone, then fled with an undisclosed amount of the painkiller in a sedan driven by a second suspect. No weapon was displayed during the robbery.

Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland said there have been 17 pharmacy robberies in 2014, which is more than the 13 such robberies in 2013 but far lower than the record-setting 56 pharmacy robberies in 2012.

“The cost of heroin went down,” said McCausland, in explaining the drop in pharmacy robberies. He said addicts are far less likely to take the risk of robbing a pharmacy when they can get heroin on the street.

Another big reason why there are fewer pharmacy robberies is the involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been actively assisting local police departments with their investigations. Federal prosecution comes with much stiffer penalties, and the addicts are well aware of that fact, McCausland said. Sentences of seven years or more in prison are not uncommon.

Pharmacy robberies are still a very serious problem for law enforcement, however, he added. Just two weeks ago, a pharmacist was taken hostage during an armed robbery of the Rite Aid in Camden. The suspect, Robert Beerman, 44, killed himself with his gun as local and state police surrounded the pharmacy.

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