A judge refused Friday to grant bail to a former Windham man who twice failed to show up for trial, pleaded guilty to financially exploiting an elderly neighbor and then failed to show up for his sentencing hearing last month.

The no-bail decision stems from an arrest warrant Justice Andrew Horton issued after Theodore Thomes was a no-show at his scheduled sentencing hearing Oct. 19. Thomes also faces a new charge of failure to appear and Horton set the bail on that charge at $10,000 cash, but the warrant Horton issued will keep Thomes behind bars.

He will be sentenced Nov. 29 on the financial exploitation charges and the hearing on the new charges will be held in January.

Thomes pleaded guilty in July to bilking an elderly neighbor, Don Penta, of about $300,000 in cash and possessions. Thomes’ guilty plea was part of a deal with prosecutors, who said they would ask for sentences of six years, all but three suspended, on three counts of theft by deception. Those sentences would run concurrently, as would sentences of nine months each on six counts of evading state income taxes, meaning Thomes would spend three years in jail and three on probation.

His plea was delayed after he failed to show up for two previous trial dates, saying that hip replacement surgery in the U.S. Virgin Islands created a scheduling conflict for him.

Prosecutors and Thomes’ lawyer had agreed that they would discuss restitution, along with a state tax bill of nearly $50,000, at his sentencing, but Thomes did not appear.

At the time of Thomes’ guilty plea, Horton allowed Thomes to travel back to his home in the Virgin Islands to get hip replacement surgery before his sentencing. Horton warned Thomes that he expected him back in court in Maine on Oct. 19, barring “a major hurricane.”

But Hurricane Maria hit the Virgin Islands a month before the sentencing and Thomes argued that he couldn’t return to the mainland because of the devastation. He said Friday that his trailer in the islands was destroyed in the storm and his lawyer said electricity is not expected to be restored to Thomes’ property until June.

Horton said he considered the month between the hurricane’s strike and Thomes’ sentencing enough time to arrange to come back to Maine. As a result, at the time of the scheduled sentencing, Horton revoked Thomes’ $10,000 cash post-conviction bail and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Thomes returned to the state Tuesday. He is on federal probation for a 2015 conviction for possession of firearms by a felon related to guns that he stole from Penta. Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said Thomes’ federal probation officer gave him “strong encouragement” to return to Maine and he flew last week to Washington, D.C. However, Thomes said his connecting flight to Maine was canceled and he ended up completing his travel by train.

Robbin told Horton on Friday that might have been a ruse to avoid being arrested by Portland police on his arrival at the Portland International Jetport and being taken immediately to Cumberland County Jail. He ended up staying with a friend Tuesday night and reported to the jail Wednesday, but officials there said they didn’t have his paperwork, so he stayed with a friend a second night and turned himself in Thursday.

A common refrain throughout Thomes’ involvement with the court system has been his ailing hip. Although he finally got replacement surgery in the Virgin Islands on Aug. 30, his lawyer, Devens Hamlen, told Horton that the hurricane had kept Thomes from getting post-surgery physical therapy. Hamlen also said that jail officials wouldn’t take Thomes to Maine Medical Center on Friday morning for a therapy appointment. Jail officials told Horton that they don’t honor appointments prisoners make on their own, but they would have Thomes evaluated by the jail’s medical staff and follow its recommendations on any treatment.

Horton said that should suffice and he refused to set bail for Thomes on the arrest warrant, saying Hamlen could return to court if medical arrangements were insufficient and he couldn’t work it out with jail officials.

Thomes directed some ire at Robbin, saying state officials didn’t appreciate the difficulties of living in the Virgin Islands after the hurricane hit. “I don’t even have a trailer. My home is gone,” he said. “This is ludicrous, I just wanted to get my hip done and do my time. If I don’t get the (hip) rehab, it’s on her and the state.”

But Robbin said Thomes has played the system to buy him more time outside of jail. “He’s essentially got over a month’s continuance” on his sentencing, she said. “He has been manipulating the court system.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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