Joseph Donald Tilton, right, talks with his attorney, Richard Charest, in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on Wednesday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

AUBURN — A father dropped his son off at the bank Tuesday to cash a check.

Or so he thought.

A short time later, the father realized his son had robbed the bank and the father had unwittingly driven the getaway car.

Keith Tilton left his son, Joseph, 39, at Androscoggin Bank’s Sabattus Street branch in Lewiston shortly after 12:30 p.m. After picking up his son outside the bank minutes later, Keith Tilton drove his son to a different part of the city where he dropped him off before heading back home, his route taking him past the same bank. As he drove by, he noticed police cruisers surrounding the bank, according to an affidavit by Detective Ryan Rawstron. When police pulled him over roughly a block from the bank, “he began to realize what had happened,” Rawstron wrote.

At the same time Tilton was driving past the bank on his way home, a teller was describing the getaway car to police and — at that moment — glimpsed the passing car. She pointed it out to police, who quickly stopped the car.

Keith Tilton told police he’d tried to talk his son into checking himself in at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center for drug addiction treatment that morning, but his son had refused to leave the car.

Joseph Tilton asked his father to take him instead to a bank because he had a check he needed to cash. His father took his son to his local bank because it was nearby, he told police.

A couple of minutes later, his son got back in the car, was “acting odd” and had no apparent destination in mind.

When Keith Tilton dropped his son at the corner of Pine and Webster streets, his son tried to leave clothing in the car. His father told him to take his clothes, but noticed his son threw his jacket on the ground behind a parked vehicle.

Keith Tilton wasn’t charged in the robbery and police said they don’t believe he had knowingly been involved.

The teller at Androscoggin Bank told police that Joseph Tilton told her to give him her money. She thought the man was joking because he had spoken in a “low tone,” she said.

He said: “Give me the f—— money. The cops are on the way,” she later told police.

Joseph Tilton repeated his demand “louder and with more authority.” He then jumped over the counter and she opened the cash drawer. She handed him cash as he grabbed it from the drawer, she said.

After emptying the drawer, he jumped back into the lobby and fled the bank with $620 in cash, she said. Tellers triggered a bank alarm and locked the exterior doors, she said.

The teller told police she had feared for her safety and that of the other employees.

Joseph Tilton spoke with police after they read him his rights, Rawstron wrote.

He said he’d asked his father for a ride and for a loan that morning. Keith Tilton had given his son $15 and the two had driven around discussing Joseph’s drug addiction, he said. He later asked his father to drop him off at the bank.

Joseph Tilton had brought into the bank with him a vehicle repair slip with his father’s name on it, then left the document in the bank. He told police he’d intended to use the paper to write a holdup note, but had decided against it after entering the bank.

Police arrested Joseph Tilton at 26 Webster St. where drug agents had suspected he’d been dealing narcotics and where he would occasionally spend the night. One of the residents there told police that Tilton had banged on the apartment door saying he’d just robbed a bank. Police later searched the apartment, but found no evidence from the robbery, according to the affidavit.

Tilton refused to tell police what he’d done with the bank money, Rawstron wrote.

On Wednesday, a judge in Androscoggin County Superior Court set bail for Tilton, who is described as a transient, at $50,000 cash on felony charges of robbery, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and theft, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

If released on bail, Tilton would be barred from having any alcohol, illegal drugs and dangerous weapons for which he can be searched at random. He may not return to Androscoggin Bank or have any contact with the bank teller.

Prosecutors said he has a lengthy criminal record and had recently been released after serving time at a Maine prison.


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