PORTLAND — A Brooklyn man who pleaded guilty Wednesday to selling tools and equipment stolen from big box hardware stores, including in Auburn, after crossing state lines broke down in tears after noting his father recently died from COVID-19.

Jose Avila Androscoggin County Jail

Jose Avila, 33, appeared at the U.S. District Court here in Maine by videoconference from his home in Brooklyn where he is free on bail pending his sentencing in the Class D felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Judge Jon D. Levy warned Avila that he faces possible deportation as a convicted felon.

Avila’s Lewiston attorney, George Hess, said his client is not a U.S. citizen and has consulted with an immigration lawyer.
Asked by Levy whether Avila was pleading guilty because he was actually guilty of the crime of conspiracy to possess/sell interstate stolen goods, he answered: “Yes — and I made a mistake.”

Investigators said that from October 2018 through February 2019, Avila and two accomplices stole merchandise from Home Depot stores in five New England states, including a store in Auburn, then drove the stolen goods to New York City area where they would sell them online, according to prosecutors. The stolen items included power tools and generators and a power washer worth a total of more than $5,000.

One of his co-defendants, Bunny Hibbert, 37, of Jamaica, was sentenced in April to the 14 months he had spent behind bars awaiting trial before pleading guilty to the same charge brought against Avila.

Hibbert was expected to be turned over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers after his sentencing.

Investigators amassed evidence that included electronic surveillance footage from various store locations, coupled with eyewitness testimony, data from an online marketplace site and electronic communications, according to court records.

Authorities arrested Avila and Hibbert in Auburn on Feb. 21, 2019, when they tried to steal items from the Home Depot there, according to court records.

Avila’s sentencing date has not been set.

Comments are not available on this story.