December 12, 2019

Two plead guilty in blueberry thefts

MACHIAS – Two of the four adults allegedly involved with the disappearance of as many as 130 boxes of harvested blueberries from a Down East cooperative last summer pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and theft Friday in Washington County Superior Court.

The four young adults, along with two juveniles, combined to take berries worth a total amount of $2,075 on four dates in late August. They could only pack 22 boxes in their car trunk at once, plus whatever else they could fit on the seats.

Kristina Kilton, 21, and Jeffrey Robicheau, 20, both of Machias, entered guilty pleas in separate appearances before Justice E. Allen Hunter.

Kilton, who was the driver on three of the four excursions, had been charged with three counts of Class C burglary and three counts of Class E theft. Facing up to five years with the Department of Corrections if she had been convicted of the burglaries, she took the state’s offer and received 18 months concurrent, with all but five days suspended.

She will serve two years of probation and pay restitution of $1,557, or an amount equivalent to three-quarters of the value of the stolen berries.

All four of the adults were in court Friday after having been indicted by the Washington County grand jury in December.

The state had moved last month to join their cases, and presented offers to all four of them Friday morning.

John Edmund Smith, 25, of Machias pleaded not guilty, although he was represented on the day by a lawyer standing in for his appointed attorney. Smith’s case was placed on the jury list for April.

Joseph McLaughlin, 19, who has been identified as the ringleader in the caper, will be pleading guilty on Feb. 10, Hunter’s next appearance in Washington County. He will be asked to pay the full amount of $2,075 in restitution.

Robicheau’s sentence for his role, helping during one of the thefts, was 13 months with all but five days suspended. He also will serve a two-year probation.

Kilton’s attorney, Norman Toffolon, took a moment to tell the court how the thefts came to happen. His client is McLaughlin’s girlfriend, and the pair were homeless and living in a car.

McLaughlin allegedly recruited his friends to help carry the boxes from the Down East Blueberry Co-op in East Machias. Then he resold them to another buyer the morning after the thefts.

The friends agreed to help McLaughlin because he was down on his luck and needed quick money. He works as a clam digger, Toffolon said, and his income had been diminished by a mud flats closure for red tide.

First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh case noted that Kilton may have been McLaughlin’s accomplice this time, but she had no prior record.

“Some of us are still young,” Cavanaugh said. “What happened is complicated and it involves difficult circumstances. But ultimately she has to make good for her behavior.”

Kilton is now working a part-time job, the court heard, and a stay on her sentence until Feb. 10 will help her start paying off her restitution.

Correction: This article ran on page B3 in the State edition.

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