AUGUSTA — Two men received lengthy prison sentences Thursday for their roles in an armed home invasion last September, and one of them must pay restitution for stealing $15,000 in jewelry from his former mother-in-law.

Michael Jo Ruth, 36, of Augusta, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with all but eight years suspended, and three years of probation.

Benjamin D. Pilsbury, 29, of Waterville was sentenced to 18 years in prison, with all but seven years suspended, and three years of probation.

Ruth and Pilsbury pleaded guilty a month ago to charges of robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary in connection with the Sept. 5 home invasion in Manchester. A Prescott Road woman awoke to find a masked man holding a knife at her throat.

Both Ruth and Pilsbury denied wielding the knife. They told investigators that a third man, Ricky Allen Lane, 25, of Augusta, did so. Charges in that case and others are pending against Lane, who has previously claimed that Ruth wielded the knife.

In January, a fourth co-defendant, Mary Catherine A. Tatlock, 30, of Farmingdale, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery in that home invasion. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but four years suspended, and three years of probation.

Prosecutors have said the group sought money for drugs.

Thursday’s hearings in Kennebec County Superior Court were primarily to determine how much restitution Ruth and Pilsbury owed. The hearings were separate, and authorities took care to ensure that neither defendant encountered the other in the courtroom. Conditions of probation prohibit contact between them as well as the other co-defendants and all the victims.

Stealing from ex-relatives

Ruth was ordered to pay up to $20,276 restitution for a Sept. 2 burglary and theft at the Winthrop home of Priscilla Young, where his ex-wife and daughter also live, and for stealing jewelry and other items four days later from two locations in Augusta.

Conditions of probation ban Ruth from contact with Young and with the other victims of his crimes.

On Thursday, Young testified that she had amassed some of the jewelry during the years she worked in the diamond department at Service Merchandise.

“I had layaways all the time to add up for my retirement,” she said.

Young testified that among the collection were necklaces and rings she had inherited from her mother.

An Augusta woman testified that Ruth stole her diamond jewelry and her husband’s $3,000 hearing aid, which he kept in her jewelry box.

“These victims should be paid the very conservative amounts that they have testified to here today,” Justice Nancy Mills told Ruth at the sentencing hearing.

“I’d just like to say I’m sorry to everybody that it’s involved,” Ruth told the judge.

Ruth’s attorney, Thomas Carey, argued that Ruth’s ankle and knee problems would prevent him from paying much restitution because he would be unable to secure jobs similar to the roofing foreman post he held previously.

“Basically, he’s going to be lucky if he’s making minimum wage,” Carey said.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Rucha argued that Ruth should be ordered to repay the full amounts the state requested.

Ruth testified that he earned about $42,000 a year before going on workers’ compensation following surgery, but owes more than $20,000 in back child support.

Other charges

For his offenses, Pilsbury, who wore a Two Bridges Regional Jail uniform indicating he was being held in Wiscasset, was ordered to pay $25,476 restitution, some of that going toward Young and toward the $100 for restitution for the victim in the home invasion.

But up to $10,000 of Pilsbury’s restitution is to go to the owner of an apartment house in Waterville. Pilsbury stripped the home of its copper piping, destroying the furnace and water heaters, on Aug. 28. The water damage was so extensive that the Waterville Fire Department was called to pump out the basement, Rucha said, adding that the building owner would testify the damages totaled $8,000 to $10,000.

Rucha said Pilsbury and a co-defendant, Michael D. Buck, 28, of South China, went to One Steel Recycling in Oakland on Sept. 2, and received $294 for 21 pounds of brass, 12 pounds of brass with iron, and 87 pounds of copper, plus some additional metal.

Buck confessed and charges are pending, Rucha told the judge.

Pilsbury’s attorney, Stephen Bourget, told the judge he originally planned to argue for a lower restitution amount based on Pilsbury’s ability to pay.

“My client instructed me he had an ability to work and wants to pay,” Bourget said in court. “The motivating factor in this crime spree was drugs, and he’s admitted that.”

Pilsbury said he had been employed in landscaping and construction.

“I’ve always worked, my whole life,” he told the judge.

Last month, Pilsbury had also pleaded guilty to an April 28 robbery at a Big Apple store and to a Sept. 1 robbery at the Mobil on the Run. Both stores are in Augusta.

He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and to burglary and theft at Young’s Winthrop home Sept. 2, when the jewelry was stolen.

Bourget said Pilsbury was an accomplice who drove co-defendants to the crime scenes, but did not go inside any homes or stores himself.


Betty Adams — 621-5631

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