A Wisconsin man arrested Tuesday while on a bus headed out of town has been charged in connection with a pair of burglaries at city churches and reportedly acknowledged carrying out similar break-ins across the country.

James S. Wilbur, 32, made his initial court appearance Wednesday on seven counts, including forgery and two counts each of burglary, theft by unauthorized taking and criminal mischief.

Wilbur was being held at the Kennebec County jail in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.

Wilbur, who most recently was staying at a group home in Litchfield, according to a court document, is accused of a pair of break-ins early Tuesday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Winthrop Street and South Parish Congregational Church UCC on Church Street. The burglaries netted cash, checks and keys, according to an affidavit filed at the Capital Judicial Center by Augusta police Detective Tori Tracy. Wilbur, who admitted to the burglaries, said he has carried out similar crimes elsewhere in Maine and across the country. All involved churches or medical offices, Tracy wrote. Wilbur is the subject of warrants issued in Portland, Florida and Wisconsin.

“He confessed that over the last 30 days he has committed several of these crimes throughout Maine, spreading from Portland to Bangor,” Tracy wrote.

Police were sent to the congregational church around 6:20 a.m. Tuesday in response to the first reported break-in. Tracy said the burglar, whom she later identified as Wilbur, got into the building through a door that was left ajar and then entered an office by breaking glass in the door. Once inside, Wilbur broke open two safes, Tracy wrote.

“The safes were empty except for a plastic baggie with two gold rings in it and a check,” Tracy wrote. “Both safes were completely destroyed.”

The Rev. Jane MacIntyre told police that one of the safes was empty, but that the other had contained $65 in cash as well as keys to the offices and building and payroll paperwork. The keys and paperwork were missing, MacIntyre said.

Tracy said the burglar also pried his way into MacIntyre’s office and took a set of master keys.

About three hours later, police were sent to the Unitarian Universalist church because of a report of a burglary there. The burglar, again later identified as Wilbur, got in through a second floor porch by cutting a screen and pushing open a door. The Rev. Carie Johnson said her bank, Kennebec Savings Bank, had called to report someone had tried to cash a $2,500 check at the bank.

“Rev. Johnsen verified that her checkbook had been taken from her desk as well as her stamp signature,” Tracy wrote. Keys to the building also were missing, but were found in an upstairs office.

Police went to Kennebec Savings Bank, where they learned the $2,500 check had been made out to James. S. Wilbur.

“The bank also took a photo copy of the male’s Maine ID card,” Tracy wrote. “The card showed a photo of a male with the name of James S. Wilbur of Portland.” The card also included his date of birth.

Police learned from bank surveillance images that Wilbur rode away in a taxi. Police talked to the cab driver, who said Wilbur had gone to the Senator Inn & Spa on Western Avenue. Employees at the hotel said Wilbur had checked in Monday, Tracy said. Police went to the hotel, only to learn Wilbur had just checked out.

“They were told that he was getting a bus ticket,” Tracy wrote.

Police went to the Concord Coach Lines bus terminal, where they learned Wilbur had already boarded a bus. Police stopped the bus in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 just north of Gardiner. Wilbur was arrested without incident. Police found in Wilbur’s backpack the checkbook from the Unitarian Universalist Church, Tracy wrote.

Wilbur later admitted to the burglaries. He explained how he carried them out and described what he took. Wilbur let Tracy search his backpack, where she found keys for South Parish Church, Tracy wrote.

“James told me that everything in his backpack was stolen from different places,” Tracy wrote. “I found items from places in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island and other states.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

ccrosby@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4