PORTLAND

Man sentenced to four years in prison for selling drugs

A Portland man was sentenced to four years of incarceration after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated drug trafficking in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.

Nicholas Cruz, 27, was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison with all but four years suspended. He was also ordered to serve three years of probation.

Members of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and Portland Police Department began investigating Cruz last year after learning of concerns that he was selling drugs from his Presumpscot Street residence. He was arrested for allegedly violating bail conditions at the time.

Authorities later returned with a warrant and say they found 360 oxycodone pills, three grams of suspected heroin and a small amount of crack cocaine, according to the Maine Department of Public Safety. The total street value of the drugs was estimated at $16,450.

Agents also seized four rifles and a Glock .45-caliber handgun.

AUGUSTA

LePage signs bill to clarify tax exemptions for buses

Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law a bill that clarifies sales tax exemptions for buses, which the governor says will help the motor coach industry create jobs.

LePage was joined by legislators and members of Maine’s motor coach industry when he signed the bill Thursday.

Current Maine law allows sales and use tax exemptions for vehicles used in interstate commerce. The owner of a new bus has to prove it’s used in interstate commerce more than 80 percent of the time in the two years following its purchase.

The new law will allow new buses that hold at least 47 passengers to qualify for the exemption, provided other requirements are met.

LePage says the bill snips red tape and gives bus companies flexibility they need to expand and create jobs.

If mama bear asks who’s peeking in her den: 194,719

The Wildlife Research Foundation says a webcam that’s been watching a Maine black bear and her cubs has logged nearly 200,000 hits since it went online Jan. 24.

The privately funded group says 194,719 visitors have watched mama bear Lugnut and her cubs, viewed its videos and read about Maine’s wildlife research programs.

The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Wildlife Research Foundation are streaming video 24/7 on the foundation’s website at www.wildliferesearchfoundation.org.

The camera was placed in the den of Lugnut, who gave birth to two cubs on Jan. 16. The camera in the den will remain with Lugnut and her growing cubs until the spring. Two other bears outfitted with radio collars, Spunky and Nell, have also been filmed and their stories are told on the website.

ROCKLAND

Escape charge dismissed due to delayed evidence

A judge has dismissed charges against a 29-year-old man accused of escaping from a Maine State Prison work detail because prosecutors took too long to turn over evidence.

Shawn Benner had been charged with escape after the state alleged he left a pre-release work detail in Rockland in October 2010. Benner and his wife, Amanda Benner, were stopped at gunpoint in Waldoboro the day he escaped.

Shawn Benner had been serving time on convictions including robbery and aggravated assault. He completed his sentence in June.

The Bangor Daily News reports that the judge dismissed the escape charge after the defense attorney argued that evidence should have been provided earlier.

Amanda Benner pleaded guilty to aiding in the escape.

BANGOR

Chelsea ex-leader, husband plead not guilty to extortion

A former Chelsea selectwoman and her husband are free on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to federal extortion, tax evasion and fraud charges.

Carole Swan and her husband, Marshall Swan, were ordered by a federal judge on Thursday to submit DNA samples and were barred from contacting the alleged victims or witnesses in the case.

Carole Swan, 53, is accused of using her position as a Chelsea selectwoman to extort $20,000 from a local construction company. She’s also charged with fraud for charging the town $130,000 for culvert pipe that actually cost her and her husband’s construction company, which was doing the work for the town, only $58,000.

The Swans are also charged with filing false federal income tax returns from 2007 through 2011.

Top three prospects for job as UMF chief to visit campus

The University of Maine System has named three finalists for the top job at the Farmington campus.

Marjorie Medd, a UMS trustee who leads the search committee, said Wednesday that the three finalists will visit the University of Maine at Farmington next month.

The finalists are Christopher Ames, assistant to the president at Washington College in Chestertown, Md.; Charlotte Borst, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Whittier College in California; and Kathrin Foster, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

President Theodora Kalikow announced last year that she will retire as president of UMF at the end of June, after 18 years with the school.

— From staff and news services