ALFRED — The former owners of a redemption center in Kittery went on trial Tuesday on charges that they received more than $10,000 from Maine beverage distributors for returning bottles and cans that were purchased, without deposits, in other states.

Attorneys for Thomas and Megan Woodard said in their opening statements Tuesday that the Woodards did not know the containers – brought to Green Bee Redemption from 2008 to 2010 by the owner of a sports complex in New Hampshire and an employee of the redemption center who lived in Massachusetts – had not been purchased in Maine.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, the prosecutor for the state, argued that the Woodards knowingly participated in the scheme to receive handling fees of 3 to 3.5 cents per container from the Maine distributors.

The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. today in York County Superior Court.

The Woodards, who have since sold the redemption center, were indicted in February by a York County grand jury on felony charges of stealing more than $10,000 by deceiving manufacturers, distributors and collection agents – including Pepsi Bottling Group, National Distributors and Returnable Services – by passing off out-of-state containers as if they had been purchased in Maine.

Dennis Reed, the owner of SportsZone in Derry, N.H., who allegedly brought out-of-state containers to Green Bee, also has been charged with theft, but has not yet been tried, said Leonard Sharon, the attorney for Thomas Woodard.

Most bottles and cans in Maine are sold with a 5-cent deposit, which is refunded when the container is returned to a redemption center. No deposit is added to the cost of bottles and cans sold in New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, there’s a deposit on carbonated beverages, but not on bottled water, juices and sports drinks, as there is in Maine.

The attorneys’ opening statements and testimony from two witnesses were presented Tuesday to two juries, one for Megan Woodard’s case and the other for Thomas Woodard’s case.

Ron Nichols, a former maintenance worker at SportsZone, testified about the container-sorting operation at the indoor sports facility. Nichols said one of his jobs was to load bags of used containers into a trailer.

The other witness was Thomas Prybot, 22, a resident of Gloucester, Mass., and a student at the University of Massachusetts who worked at Green Bee during his summer vacations.

The state agreed not to prosecute Prybot for redeeming bottles from Massachusetts at Green Bee, in exchange for his testimony in the Woodards’ trial.

In his opening statement, Megan Woodard’s attorney, Walter McKee, presented pictures of warning signs that were posted at Green Bee, letting customers know that it is illegal to return bottles that aren’t purchased in Maine.

He showed jurors a form that was supposed to be filled out and signed by customers who came to the redemption center in vehicles with out-of-state license plates. The form asserted that the containers being returned had been purchased in Maine.

Prybot acknowledged that several checks for hundreds of dollars, written by Megan Woodard, were for his containers. He said he would transport the bottles and cans in his pickup truck, with Massachusetts license plates, from his home in Gloucester to Green Bee.

Prybot said the Woodards never asked him where the bottles and cans had been purchased.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]