A Gardiner man accused of robbing the Osco Pharmacy in Augusta twice in two days last fall pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Bangor.

Ryan J. McLaughlin, 26, changed his plea to guilty on two counts of interfering with commerce by robbery in a hearing before Judge D. Brock Hornby in U.S. District Court.

McLaughlin was first arrested by FBI agents in Portland on unrelated warrants Nov. 14, a day after the second robbery, and the robbery charges were added shortly thereafter. He has remained in custody since then.

The Osco Pharmacy, at the Shaw’s supermarket on Western Avenue, was robbed shortly after noon on both Nov. 11 and 13. The description of the robber and manner of the crimes in each case were identical. In both cases, McLaughlin passed a note to employees, demanded oxycodone and fled with the drugs.

At the time of the robberies, Augusta police were already seeking McLaughlin in at least one burglary, according to state court filings.

Augusta police identified McLaughlin based on tips from the public after the Kennebec Journal ran a photo of the robber. Investigators then tracked McLaughlin and his girlfriend through acquaintances to a Portland hotel where they were staying, and joined the FBI to arrest McLaughlin there.

An affidavit by Augusta police Detective Jason Cote, filed in November in Augusta District Court, outlined some of the evidence against McLaughlin. Cote had helped interview McLaughlin at the FBI office.

“McLaughlin confessed to both pharmacy robberies at Shaw’s in Augusta. He admitted he has a severe opiate addiction,” Cote wrote. “He stated that due to his severe addiction and no place to live, in mere desperation he decided to rob the Shaw’s pharmacy.”

McLaughlin faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each count. His sentencing date was not immediately available.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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