An Augusta man jailed earlier this year for stealing a pack of cigarettes is back behind bars in connection with a trio of Augusta robberies in the past week.

Daniel Couto, 25, was arrested just past midnight Monday during a traffic stop on Chapel Street and charged with attempted armed robbery and two counts of armed robbery.

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

Deputy Chief Jared Mills said in a news release that Augusta police linked Couto to an armed robbery Dec. 7 at 1:33 a.m. at the Big Apple convenience store on Stone Street in Augusta. In that case, the robber handed the store clerk a note that demanded money and threatened the use of force, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money, police said.

The investigation into that robbery continued through Sunday night when, around 10:12 p.m., police were called to a report of an attempted armed robbery at the Big Apple on Civic Center Drive. Like the first robbery, the clerk was handed a note demanding money, Mills said, but the robber was “unable to obtain any amount of money and fled the scene on foot.”

About 20 minutes later, an armed robbery was reported at the Circle K store on Eastern Avenue with details matching those of the earlier hold-ups. The robber got away with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Maine State Police trooper G.J. Neagle arrived to help track the robber with a police dog.

Meanwhile, police also learned that a dark colored minivan may have been linked to the robbery at the Circle K, Mills said.

Police found a minivan shortly after midnight and stopped it on Chapel Street. Police found evidence inside the van linking Couto to the robberies, Mills said.

Police detectives are also investigating whether illegal drugs were a factor in the robberies. Couto was free under conditions of release through Maine Pre-Trial Services.

Couto, according to Kennebec Journal archives, was sentenced in September to serve the first six months of a three-year prison sentence, followed by two years’ probation, after he was convicted of multiple crimes, including unlawful possession of drugs, theft and violating conditions of release.

Couto in March pleaded guilty to class E theft and violating conditions of release after stealing a pack of cigarettes from the Maine Smoke Shop on Western Avenue in Augusta. Justice Robert Mullen sentenced Couto to serve the first 30 days of a 364-day jail sentence and ordered him to pay $6 restitution.

Couto’s criminal record dates back at least four years to July 2011 when he was arrested on a warrant charging unpaid fines.

Couto was convicted three times in 2014. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail in March on a theft charge, fined $400 in August on charges of forgery and theft and sentenced to 24 hours in jail in November for violating conditions of his release and trespassing.

 

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