ALFRED — A former Kittery redemption center owner was sentenced this afternoon
to 21 days in jail for stealing more than $10,000 from beverage manufacturers and distributors by refunding cans and bottles from out of state, according to his attorney.

Thomas Woodard, who ran Green Bee Redemption, was convicted in August in the state’s first criminal trial over bottle redemption fraud. His wife, Megan Woodard, was tried at the same time on the same charge in the same York County courtroom, but a separate jury found her not guilty.

Thomas Woodard is free on bail while he appeals the conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, said his attorney, Thomas Hallett.

In the Woodards’ four day trial, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin contended that the couple had helped to set up satellite redemption centers at an indoor sports complex in Derry, N.H., and at their employee’s home in Gloucester, Mass.

More than 100,000 beverage containers from both states, which have different bottle laws than Maine, were redeemed at Green Bee between 2008 and 2010, Robbin said. She said that arrangement allowed the sports complex owner and the redemption center employee to collect refunds that they never paid.

The motive for the Woodards, she said, was to collect a handling fee from distributors that was 3 or 3.5 centers per container, depending on the brand of beverage.

Maine’s bottle law requires customers to pay 5-cent deposits when they buy most canned and bottled drinks. Wine and liquor carry 15-cent deposits.

In Massachusetts, deposits are paid only on beer, malt and carbonated beverages, but not on water, juice or sports drinks. There are no deposits on containers purchased in New Hampshire.

At the time of the trial, Robbin said bottle redemption fraud is prevalent along the state’s border where it’s easy for Maine and New Hampshire residents to purchase their beverages in New Hampshire and return them for refunds in Maine.

According to the Maine Beverage Association, about $8 million in bottle redemption fraud occurs annually in the state.

Robbin said during the trial that she hadn’t pursued such a case before because she never felt there was enough evidence to convict a significant crime. The evidence against the Woodards, she said, was “the strongest … we have in the most egregious case we know of at the time.”

Although Robbin asked for Woodard to be sentenced to 90 days in jail, she said today that “any jail time is significant” because of the message it sends about the consequences of large-scale bottle redemption fraud.

Robbin said she believes the high-profile trial has already had an effect on the fraudulent activity near the Maine border. She said she’s heard from the state Department of Agriculture that redemption centers there have been returning fewer bottles in recent months.

Hallett, who did not represent Woodard during the trial, said he was hoping that his client would not receive any jail time, but said he thought the sentence handed down today by Justice Carl Bradford was reasonable.