2 held in Lewiston heist

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LEWISTON – Two men were arrested in New Hampshire on Wednesday and charged in connection with an April bank robbery in Lewiston.

Lewiston police detectives were in Portsmouth late Wednesday night after arresting their two suspects on charges of being fugitives from justice.

The New Hampshire men, 33-year-old Richard C. Hamilton, of Lee, and 21-year-old Michael V. Hehir, of Portsmouth, were being held Wednesday night at the Portsmouth Police Department.

Portsmouth police said those men and a third from Dover, N.H., were charged during an investigation that resulted in the seizure of more than $40,000 worth of marijuana.

Police said Hamilton, Hehir and 19-year-old Christian M. Jennings were arrested as part of an investigation into recent bank robberies and drug distribution.

Hamilton was also charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Jennings was charged with possession of drugs in a vehicle.

Lewiston police detectives were mainly interested in Hamilton and Hehir, whom they identified earlier this week as suspects in both Bank of America bank robberies in this city. The pair are expected to be arraigned this morning at a Portsmouth courthouse, where new charges are expected to be filed, Portsmouth police said in a news release.

The arrests Wednesday marked the culmination of an investigation by Lewiston police and other agencies following a pair of robberies at the Bank of America on Sabattus Street.

Earlier in the day, Lewiston police had said only that they were getting close to arresting suspects in the robberies, but did not provide further details.

After Lewiston Detectives Brian O’Malley and Jim Theiss identified a getaway car used in one of the robberies, they received information Monday that the rental vehicle was parked at a home in Lee, N.H., a town of about 4,400.

Lee police who went to the home at Routes 125 and 152 on Monday afternoon and uncovered at least 45 pot plants, police said. At the time, Hamilton and Hehir became suspects in the Lewiston robbery, but they remained at large until late Wednesday afternoon when another car they were riding in was pulled over at the Portsmouth traffic circle, police said.

Investigators there calling the marijuana seizure among the most elaborate in the history of the N.H. Attorney General’s Drug Task Force. And it started with an unrelated investigation that began in Maine.

Late Monday afternoon, Lewiston police said they learned that a car believed to have been used in the April 25 heist at the Sabattus Street bank had been spotted in New Hampshire.

Police detectives here called police in Lee and directed them to the farmhouse. It was there that the pot-growing operation was uncovered, Lee police said.

Lewiston police detectives drove to Lee later that night. They were interested in the 2006 Nissan Armada found in the yard of the farmhouse, police said. It was believed that vehicle had been used in the robbery at the Bank of America.

While Lee police investigated the pot operation, the detectives from Lewiston searched the Nissan and the farmhouse where it had been parked.

On Wednesday, it was not revealed what was found during the search. But police said the men suspected of growing the pot were also suspects in the Lewiston robberies as well as another in Hooksett, N.H.

Lee police Chief Chet Murch told a reporter for Foster’s Daily Democrat that, in addition to the man wanted for pot cultivation and bank robbery, other arrests will likely result from the investigation.

The Bank of America on Sabattus Street was robbed twice in just under three weeks. On April 5, a man went into the bank just before noon, showed a teller a handgun, and then fled through a back door with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.

On April 25, a man went into the bank and demanded money without showing a weapon. He fled out the back with a bag of money, police said. Moments later, a car bounced down Demi Circle unattended, crossed Russell Street and crashed into a house.

Police believe that car had been abandoned by the thief and that he then jumped into a second vehicle driven by an accomplice. The second getaway car was later determined to be the Nissan Armada that was found in Lee a week later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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