ALFRED — Two juries today will begin separate deliberations in the trials of a married couple who owned a Kittery redemption center and are accused of stealing about $10,000 in refunds and handling fees on beverage containers bought out of state as if they were bought in Maine.

The prosecution for the state contends that Megan and Thomas Woodard, former owners of Green Bee Redemption, knowingly allowed the owner of a New Hampshire sports complex and their own employee, who lived in Massachusetts, to redeem a total of more than 100,000 out-of-state containers at their business between 2008 and 2010.

The Woodards’ motive, the prosecution said, was to collect a handling fee of 3 or 3.5 cents per container.

The Woodards each were indicted in February on a felony charge of theft by deception for stealing more than $10,000 from Maine beverage manufacturers, distributors and their collection agents, including Pepsi Bottling Group, National Distributors and Returnable Services.

The Woodards’ attorneys say they did not know that the bottles redeemed by Dennis Reed, the owner of SportsZone in Derry, N.H., and by their part-time employee, college student Thomas Prybot, were bought out of state.

Superior Court Justice Carl O. Bradford is presiding over the trials, which began Tuesday in York County Superior Court. Following the conclusion of testimony Thursday, attorneys gave their closing arguments, first to a jury for Megan Woodard’s case and then to a jury for Thomas Woodard’s case.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said evidence showed that the Woodards arranged for Reed and Prybot to drop off large quantities of containers outside of normal operating hours and get paid later by check, so they wouldn’t have to interact with other employees, who might question the origin of the bottles and cans.

“What you’ve learned is that redemption is a dirty business,” Robbin told the juries.

Attorneys for the Woodards depicted the couple as honest business owners who trusted their customers and employees to obey a law that’s easy to break, because most containers don’t carry obvious indications of where they were purchased.

Megan Woodard’s attorney, Walter McKee, said the only people the state proved guilty during the trial were Reed and Prybot.

“The problem is those two people are not in the courtroom today,” he said.

Robbin argued that innocent operators of a redemption center would have been suspicious of Reed and Prybot for bringing in large loads of pre-sorted containers in vehicles with out-of-state license plates. Reed drove an SUV with New Hampshire plates, and Prybot had a pickup truck with Massachusetts plates.

“They were operating a licensed redemption center,” Robbin said. “They don’t just take people’s words.”

McKee questioned why, if Megan Woodard was involved in an illegal scheme, she would pay Reed and Prybot by check rather than in cash, in which case there would be no record of the transactions. In response, Robbin said, Woodard didn’t think she’d get caught.

Megan Woodard took over the redemption center in 2007 from her ex-husband Cameron Paine, who had operated it as Thirsty Dawg Redemption since the mid-1990s. Thomas Woodard, her current husband, became involved in the business, renamed Green Bee Redemption, in 2008 after he was laid off from his job as an environmental engineer.

Reed had been a customer of Thirsty Dawg and Prybot had worked there one summer, according to testimony given during the trial. Prybot was rehired by the Woodards on Paine’s recommendation.

In February 2010, Randy Trahan, an inspector from the Department of Agriculture, got a tip from an employee at SportsZone in New Hampshire that the business had been sorting empty containers sold there and hauling them out by the trailer-full on a monthly basis.

Beverage containers bought in New Hampshire don’t carry a deposit, so they cannot be returned for refunds.

The tip led Trahan to set up surveillance of the indoor sports complex, and, after dark one night in March 2010, he caught Reed hauling 11,000 containers from SportsZone and unloading them in a box truck parked behind Green Bee’s office on U.S. Route 1 in Kittery. The redemption center, where customers brought their containers during normal operating hours, is on Old Post Road, about a mile away from the office.

An further investigation by Detective Bruce Densmore of the Maine Attorney General’s Office revealed that, over a two-year period, the Woodards had written Reed 10 checks in amounts ranging from $340 to $543, which would represent 5 cent refunds on loads of returnables, ranging from about 6,800 to about 10,900 containers, according to Robbin.

Most beverage containers in Maine carry a 5 cent deposit. The deposit is 15 cents for bottles of wine and spirits.

In studying the Woodards’ bank records, Densmore also found seven checks written to Prybot in amounts ranging from $169 to $470.

According to Robbin, the checks were for loads as small as 3,400 and as large as 9,400 of 5-cent bottles.

In an interview in April 2010, Trahan said, Woodard told him he believed Reed’s containers were coming from sports complexes in Saco and York that Reed told him he also operated. Prybot testified Tuesday that the Woodards never asked him where his containers were bought.

Prybot admitted that he brought containers to Green Bee from his home in Massachusetts, which has a bottle law only applies to beer, malt and carbonated beverages, not water, juice and sports drinks, like Maine’s does.

The state agreed not to prosecute him in exchange for his testimony in the Woodard trials.

Reed was indicted by a York County grand jury in July on a theft charge for stealing more than $1,000 from Maine bottle manufacturers, distributors and their collection agents. He is scheduled to appear in court in October.


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