Saturday, April 19, 2014
By Betty Adams / Kennebec Journal
A federal grand jury in Bangor has indicted a local man on charges of robbing the Shaw’s Osco Pharmacy in Augusta twice within two days.
The indictment charges Ryan J. McLaughlin, 26, of Gardiner, with two counts of interfering with robbery by commerce, charges which carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a maximum of $250,000 in fines.
McLaughlin, 26, was arrested initially by FBI agents in southern Maine on Nov. 14, a day after the second robbery, on unrelated warrants; but federal robbery charges were added shortly afterward. He has been in custody since then.
He is accused of robbing the pharmacy shortly after noon on both Nov. 11 and 13. The description of the suspect and the crimes in each case were identical. In both cases, police said he passed a note to employees, got drugs and fled on foot. No one was injured in either incident.
Documents filed in state court, where McLaughlin initially was charged with the robberies, indicated he used a taxi as a getaway vehicle in the Nov. 13 robbery.
Augusta police identified McLaughlin based on tips from the public. One person emailed the Kennebec Journal identifying McLaughlin by name as the person depicted in a security photo from the Nov. 13 robbery.
An affidavit by Augusta police Detective Jason Cote filed in November in Augusta District Court outlined some of the evidence against McLaughlin. In it, Cote says McLaughlin admitted to both robberies when Cote questioned him Nov. 14 at the FBI office in Portland.
McLaughlin, who has used a series of addresses, including one in Dresden, was arrested in Portland after police and FBI agents learned McLaughlin and his pregnant girlfriend had been driven there by a relative and were staying at a hotel there.
“He admitted he has a severe opiate addition,” Cote wrote, “He actually stated he was using seven to eight pills every two hours.”
Cote said McLaughlin said out of “mere desperation” he decided to rob the pharmacy at Shaw’s, walking there from a friend’s house nearby and then running from the supermarket on foot.
The pharmacy at the Augusta Shaw’s had never been robbed before Nov. 11, 2013.
McLaughlin was indicted Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
McLaughlin will be arraigned formally on the charges in that court although a hearing date is not yet scheduled.
State prosecutors took up a federal offer to assist with prosecuting Maine pharmacy robberies after they spiked to 58 in 2012. Augusta had a statewide high of nine that year. There were three pharmacy robberies in Augusta in 2013.
Federal authorities have jurisdiction if the pharmacy is federally licensed, if the wholesale value of the product is more than $500 or if there is a physical injury in the course of the robbery.