Three arrested in commercial burglary ring investigation

Apr. 29—AUBURN — Three area people were arrested Thursday and charged in what police describe as a spree of commercial burglaries that stretched across Androscoggin County and possibly beyond.

Arrested were:

— Charles York, 46, listed as transient, on four counts of burglary, five counts of theft and charges of criminal mischief and a charge of violating conditions of release.

— Billie Jo Garland, 46, of 9 Eastman Lane, Auburn, on four counts of burglary, five counts of theft and a charge of criminal mischief.

— Amanda Garland, 41, of 9 Eastman Lane, Auburn, on four counts of burglary, four counts of theft and theft of a firearm and criminal mischief.

The three were being held Friday at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

Auburn police have been investigating the break-ins with the help of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office and other departments since March 2.

On that day, in the overnight hours, East Auburn Baptist Church was broken into and cash and other items were stolen. Soon after, police began receiving reports of business break-ins across Auburn and other towns.

At least one gun was stolen in the break-ins for which Amanda Garland was charged.

Sources said the culprits cut power lines running to buildings before entering them and stealing money and property. At least four businesses were broken into, although police stressed Friday that the investigation is ongoing and further charges are likely.

Police in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties have been investigating a string of dozens of business break-ins over recent months.

Billie Jo Garland has a long criminal history of burglaries and thefts in the Lewiston area dating back to 1994 and has served significant prison sentences.

York, who lists addresses in Lewiston, Portland and Bath, has convictions dating back to 1995 for multiple burglaries, thefts and possession of burglar tools. In 2019, he was sentenced to three years in prison in a plea deal after he was accused of stealing $15,000 from the Augusta Elks Lodge in 2015 and burglarizing other businesses across four counties.

In the 2015 heists, prosecutors estimated the items stolen, along with damage done to businesses, at more than $200,000. The money taken from the Augusta Elks Club, police said, was meant to cover the costs of a fundraiser for a foundation for wounded veterans.

No criminal records were found in Maine for Amanda Garland.

In November 2022, police arrested a murder suspect who was listed as one of Philadelpia's most wanted persons. The suspect, 44-year-old Earl R. Hassan, had rented property on Eastman Lane from Billie Joe Garland, police said at the time. Billie Joe and Amanda Garland — who are married — were at the scene when Hassan was brought into custody. The couple was questioned although it was unclear if they were charged in that incident.

The trio was arrested on the burglary and theft charges early Thursday morning on Route 4 in Turner. Police spent Thursday night and part of Friday retrieving evidence from the Garland home on Eastman Lane.

Billie Jo and Amanda Garland were being held on $15,000 bail. York was being held on $20,000 bail.