April 07, 2020

Down East suspect now pleading guilty > Issue of half sister up to state court

BANGOR — A Washington County native who last fall went on a two-state crime spree on Tuesday changed his plea to guilty on two counts related to the 10-day rampage that stretched from New Hampshire to Down East Maine.

Robert Allen Lank, 19, of Pembroke and Calais faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and possible maximum fines of $500,000 after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Bangor to being a felon in possession of a firearm and to unlawful interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. Six weeks ago, Lank pleaded not guilty to charges outlined in a Nov. 12, 1997, indictment.

Left unanswered in Tuesday’s change-of-plea hearing was whether Lank would be indicted in state court on a charge that he illegally transported his 13-year-old half sister from New Hampshire to Maine with the intent to engage in sexual activity. The girl was found with Lank on Oct. 15, 1997, at a Bangor motel. Police found at least one sexually explicit photograph of the girl in the room.

The charge was detailed in an October complaint filed in federal court. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, however, decided not to pursue at the federal level an indictment on the alleged sexual misconduct. Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy said the possibility exists that Lank could be charged with the crime at the state court level, but he said he had no knowedge of whether that would occur.

Federal officals also did not pursue kidnapping charges against Lank because “there was no evidence the girl was take across state lines against her will,” McCarthy said Tuesday.

Lank’s attorney, Norman Torffalon of Machias, declined to comment on the matter. A call to Washington County Superior Court revealed Lank faces a Jan. 16 hearing for violating his state probation, but other information could not be obtained Tuesday.

Dressed in jeans and a gray T-shirt, a subdued Lank was brought to the afternoon hearing in handcuffs. He has been jailed in Washington County since November, a few weeks after he was arrested at the Bangor motel where he and his half sister allegedly had stopped for the night.

Wearing a cap bearing a Marlboro insignia, Lank told U.S. District Judge Morton Brody he has been put on the medication lithium since he has been in jail. In response to a question from the judge, he said he had not taken the medication for at least 24 hours before his court appearance.

Working on a tip from the Calais Police Department, members of the Bangor Police Department and agents from the Violent Crimes Task Force arrested Lank at the Comfort Inn on Hogan Road on Oct. 15.

The FBI was called to search for Lank on Oct. 6 after Edwin Tucker of Hooksett, N.H., reported to local police that his 1989 Chevrolet Blazer had been stolen. Tucker’s wife, Dorothy, reported that her daughter, Lank’s half sister, also was missing. Lank was living at the Tucker home in New Hampshire at the time the vehicle and the girl disappeared, according to a court affidavit submitted by FBI Special Agent Wayne Hedrick.

Hedrick wrote in the court document that he had learned that Lank was a felon on probation and that he was was living and working in Hooksett.

A nationwide search was conducted, and the investigation moved to Calais after Hooksett police told the Calais police that they believed Lank and the girl were heading to the Down East community.

On Oct. 10, Calais police found the abandoned Blazer parked behind Calais High School. That same day, school officials reported that the school’s 1981 van, used for taking lunches between schools in the district, was missing. That evening, a garage on Route 1 in Calais was broken into and change was stolen. Police believe Lank was involved in those incidents as well as several break-ins in Alexander, according to a court complaint.

On Oct. 12, the van was recovered on Route 179, in Township 8 near Ellsworth.

When questioned, Lank told officers he had stolen the Blazer and admitted driving the vehicle from New Hampshire to Maine. He also said his half sister accompanied him on the trip and that he had engaged in sexual acts with her, according to court papers. When searching their motel room, police found pictures, including one that was sexually explicit, a court complaint states. Lank denied taking the photograph, but the girl told police Lank had taken the photograph of her, according to court papers.

Lank also admittd he burglarized the Donald L. Newman Trucking Co. in Baring and stole a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Police found the weapon in a travel bag.

A familiar fiigure to Calais police, Lank and a companion were arrested in June 1996, after they stole a 1992 Chevrolet Blazer from the Atlantic Rehabilitation Center in Calais. In July 1996, Lank was arrested again and charged with one count of burglary, two counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, and passing a roadblock after he took a 1988 Ford Mustang from Pratt Chevrolet in Calais.

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