Two 15-year-old boys are under arrest after a series of car thefts that Maine State Police say caused $50,000 in damage to some of the cars and to the Litchfield Fairgrounds.

Over the course of about a week, police say, eight vehicles were stolen — seven from Maine Avenue Auto Sales in Farmingdale and one from a resident at the Foggy Bottom Campground — and were abandoned around the region. Two were returned to the dealership. One was covered in grass both inside and out, and one crashed into another car.

State police say the boys, one from Farmingdale and one from Whitefield, were arrested Wednesday after one of them was caught Tuesday night in the act of trying to steal a ninth vehicle. The boys were charged with felony theft, burglary, aggravated criminal mischief and misdemeanor unauthorized taking of a motor vehicle. Because they are juveniles, their names have not been released.

Both boys, now on juvenile probation, are being held at the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Maine State Police Sgt. Chris Rogers said Wednesday the state police have taken a report of a vehicle stolen Tuesday night on Pond Road in West Gardiner. It has not yet been recovered, but Rogers said it was taken from a location visible from the home of a third juvenile believed to be involved in the car thefts.

“There are other people with charges pending,” Rogers said.

Maine Avenue Auto Sales owner Kevin Keene said he’s been in the car business in one way or another for 23 years and he’s never seen anything like this.

“Nothing as bizarre as this,” he said Wednesday from his office at the used car dealership.

Keene said he’s still adding up the damage. Although he could only estimate on Wednesday, he said the damage to his vehicles and property could top $20,000. He’s also had to pay for towing the vehicles back to his lot.

“You have to wonder about these kids,” he said. “They play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ all day and they never get caught. Did they think they were immune?”

The thefts started June 21. Rogers said a 1979 Porsche was stolen from the Farmingdale campground and found abandoned with the motor running on Bowman Street in Farmingdale, after area residents reported a car being driven erratically in the neighborhood. While it was found not far from where it was stolen, it had been driven around erratically for a while, according to complaints received by police.

Rogers said apparently the juveniles, who are not old enough to have driver’s licenses, were having trouble driving a manual transmission car and abandoned it when they saw a trooper arrive at the campground to take the stolen vehicle report.

Among the seven automatic transmission vehicles stolen from the car lot was a 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe, which was found later in one of the buildings at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. There was evidence the Tahoe had been used to ram the gate, and it had damaged some of the fields at the fairgrounds. Rogers said a side mirror from the Tahoe was found near a damaged mailbox in Farmingdale.

Another stolen vehicle was found in the parking lot of Uncle Henry’s on Route 17 in Augusta.

Last Friday, state troopers went to Pond Road in West Gardiner, where two more stolen cars were being used to damage fields, with one of the cars being left behind stacked hay bales.

State police say fields in Lincoln County have been damaged as well.

Rogers said the state police had the dealership under surveillance.

“When the troopers showed up (Tuesday), he was in the process of making entry to the building,” he said. “He apparently hid under a desk for a while. He has key fobs when he steps out again and presses them to see which vehicle he wants to take.”

When he couldn’t start that car, he returned to the office for different keys and he was taken into custody.

Other cars stolen were two Subaru Outbacks, a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix and a 2003 Mazda Protege. In addition to the stolen cars and damage to the fairgrounds, police said the boys also stole a license plate from a parked car in Farmingdale. The license plate number was “STOL3N” and was recovered last night on one of the stolen cars.

Keene, who will be meeting with his attorney later this week, said as odd as this case is, his business is different from others because all of his inventory is stored outside. He can’t put it under cover at night.

“I feel violated,” he said. “This is how I make my living.”

Since the first three cars were stolen early Thursday, followed by four early Friday, Keene said he’s been trying to figure out if the thefts were personal, the work of someone who is upset with him. Now he’s picking up the pieces and wondering what filing a claim this size will do to his insurance coverage.

“I have been going home every night, wondering if they would come back and wreck the cars instead of stealing them,” he said. “You want to come down and hang out and try to catch them, but I promised the police I wouldn’t do that.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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