GREENE — Days after learning that his Route 202 property had been looted, George Stanley said he has no expectation that people will return what was taken.

“Nope,” Stanley said Friday. “I have no faith in human nature.”

For days, people have been hauling away items from Stanley’s property after a bogus Craigslist ad announced that it was free for the taking.

Stanley said his losses will easily exceed $10,000. On Friday, he got help from a Livermore repairman who went to Stanley’s property intent on securing the buildings.

It turns out things weren’t that simple.

“He said there’s no way he can secure anything,” Stanley said. “The doors have been jammed open and torn off the hinges and everything is wide open. He said you better get a hold of yourself before you go and view it. The devastation is unbelievable. They just gutted the place.”


When people showed up for what they thought was free stuff, they entered Stanley’s building — all 12,000 square feet of it — to get at the goods. What they didn’t take, Stanley said, they simply hurled outside.

“They just threw it out there and nothing is salvageable,” he said.

Among items taken, Stanley said, were lawn mowers, tree trimmers, generators, solar lights, roofing materials, landscaping and a vast array of smaller items.

Glum on Friday as he made his way back from Florida, Stanley said he has no faith that people will return his stuff — or that the creator of the fraudulent Craigslist ad will be caught.

Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson, on the other hand, was a bit more optimistic. Even if the culprit went to an internet cafe or library and used a fake email address to create the advertisement, he said, it’s not a sure thing that he or she will get away with it.

“You can go to a computer somewhere, but it’s 2018,” Robinson said. “There’s going to be a camera around.”


He has handled similar cases that were solved with equally murky evidence, Robinson said. And if the creator of the Craigslist ad is caught, the consequences could be dire.

“If all of the property stolen exceeds $10,000,” Robinson said, “he would be charged as though he was the primary thief. His total would be that of a felon.”

Although the Greene case has not yet made its way to the District Attorney’s Office, Robinson speculated that the person who made the Craigslist ad would be prosecuted as an accomplice to multiple counts of theft. According to witness accounts of the scavenging on Route 202, as of Friday that would mean dozens of counts of Class B theft.

In Maine, Class B crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The coast is not necessarily clear for those who took property, either, Robinson said — not even if they were seduced into the act by the bogus Craigslist ad. Now that word has spread that the ad was a fake, those with purloined merchandise may be guilty of the crime of receiving stolen property.

“Those people who went over there and took the property, even if you give them the benefit of the doubt, once it becomes clear that the property taken was without the consent of the property owner, now they are retaining the property of another knowing it had been stolen,” Robinson said.


Under Maine law, a person is guilty of receiving stolen property if “the person receives, retains or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it has probably been stolen, with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.”

One of Stanley’s neighbors, Mike Burgess, who lives across the town line in Leeds, said he was told that one woman spotted taking items off the property planned to return it all, now that the Craigslist ad has been shown to be fake.

Whether or not others follow suit remains to be seen. Although the scene at Stanley’s place had quieted Friday, people had continued to haul goods away from the property into Thursday night.

“They just seemed to have no concern at all about what they were doing,” Burgess said.

One couple who spoke with a news photographer at the scene Thursday said they were taking items without any reservations. On top of the Craigslist ad, they said rumors were afloat that the town of Greene had seized Stanley’s land and store and were simply trying to get rid of the merchandise.

That rumor also proved to be false, according to a Greene town clerk. The town had not seized Stanley’s property, she said, and they certainly had not created a Craigslist ad announcing that it could be rummaged.


On social media, dozens weighed in on the matter throughout the day Friday. Some were surprised that so many people were fooled by a bogus advertisement — and that they ravaged Stanley’s property in spite of numerous “no trespassing” signs posted there.

Others were not surprised at all.

“People have no shame,” Jimi Cutting of Lewiston said. “The ones that believe an unofficial ad on Craigslist that a city did something are the same ones that believe the ‘share-this-and-Bill-Gates-will-give-you-a-million-dollars’ posts.”

A few pointed to the fact that Stanley has had disputes with the town and that there have been conflicts with neighbors.

But even those who have had unpleasant dealings with Stanley have expressed distaste for the situation at his property. Even with the sham Craigslist ad out there, common sense should have told them it’s not OK to loot on another person’s property.

“If somebody robs a bank and leaves the vault door open,” Burgess said, “does that give everybody else the right to go in there? You just can’t be doing this stuff.”

Stanley, who planned to bunk down in New Hampshire before heading back to Maine to survey the shambles on his property, said he likes to trust people. But on Friday, he did not trust the looters to bring back the items they had taken. The allure of free stuff, he said, was just too great.

“As Shakespeare said, ‘Larceny is in the heart of man,'” Stanley said. “And in this case, I would add ‘woman.'”

George Stanley’s property on Route 202 in Greene was the scene of wholesale looting in recent days. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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