A man charged Friday with one of the numerous armed robberies committed in recent weeks against small businesses across southern Maine has a history of theft and burglary convictions, and investigators are now looking at whether he is responsible for more of the unsolved holdups.

Travis Card, 38, was arrested on William Clarke Boulevard about 6:30 a.m. shortly after he left his father’s house on Mechanic Street in Westbrook on his way to work, according to police and Card’s father, Ray Card Jr., 61. He has a family home in Windham but had been staying with his father in recent weeks.

Subsequent searches at Card’s father’s apartment turned up a BB pistol, multiple pairs of gloves, a black sweatshirt and other items, according to a receipt police provided to Ray Card Jr.

FBI agents and police from Westbrook, Portland and South Portland swarmed Travis Card’s vehicle as he was driving to work with his brother, Ray Card Jr. said.

Police said they believe Card was responsible for the robbery of the Gulf Mart on Bridgton Road in Westbrook on April 6. Card was booked into Cumberland County Jail later Friday morning. Bail was set at $50,000 cash, and as of 5 p.m. he was still incarcerated. If he does not post bail, Card is expected to make his first appearance in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Whether police will charge him with more of the robberies is unclear, and the precise nature of the allegations against him will not be known until the District Attorney’s Office officially files charges before Card’s first court appearance.

SUSPECT’S FATHER’S HOME SEARCHED

Law enforcement has responded to 13 other unsolved robberies in the region, including three others in Westbrook and 10 spread across eight other communities. All of them appear to share characteristics and may be connected, but Westbrook Police Capt. Steve Goldberg would not say Friday if Card was responsible for the others.

“We’re still investigating,” Goldberg said. “At this point, it’s too early to tell for sure.”

Card had been staying with his father in Westbrook for the last three weeks because of marital difficulties, Ray Card Jr. said.

One of the stores that was held up – the Good Things Variety Store – is about two-tenths of a mile from the Mechanic Street apartment searched Friday.

Despite the arrest, Goldberg urged local businesses to “continue to be alert” and stay vigilant about security.

He did not describe what new evidence led to the arrest, but he said police moved quickly as soon as the suspect was identified. The police departments and FBI investigators have been speaking daily through a teleconference, he said.

According to a portion of the search warrant provided to Ray Card Jr., police listed what they believed they might find in the apartment, including a black semi-automatic pistol, blue jeans, a blue hooded sweatshirt, a black ski mask, a pair of black work gloves with a white stripe across the wrist, purple nitrile gloves, a purple or lavendar scarf, a Garmin GPS unit in Card’s work truck, and Card’s black iPhone.

The copy of the search warrant paperwork provided to Ray Card Jr. did not include the affidavit, which is a sworn narrative by a police officer explaining to a judge why police believe they have established probable cause to execute the search.

Local police and the FBI have been investigating the possible connection between 14 unsolved armed robberies in less than four weeks, including a cluster of four robberies in a little more than 25 hours this week. In most cases, the suspect was identified as a white man covered in dark clothing and armed with a handgun entering a small business and demanding cash from employees. The majority of the robberies occurred shortly before closing time at small businesses where only one or two employees were present.

Ray Card Jr. said he was in complete disbelief at the arrest, and said his son told him that the police have the wrong guy.

Travis Card has a good, salaried job working for Watermatic Irrigation in South Portland, a company truck and a wife and kids that he loves, his father said. No one answered the door at Card’s Windham home Friday afternoon.

“He just called me from the jail and said, ‘Dad, I didn’t do this,’ ” Ray Card Jr. said shortly after the arrest.

Scott Holmes, owner of Watermatic Irrigation, said Friday afternoon that Card is not employed by his company and declined further comment.

Travis Card has a 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, his father said. An armed robbery would mean much more jail time than Travis Card, who has a criminal record, has served in the past and he is too smart to take that risk, his father said.

“I just can’t see him putting his family through that,” he said.

PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORD

The first-floor apartment where Ray Card Jr. lives was in disarray Friday and he said the local police and FBI turned the apartment upside down. Clothes and belongings were stacked high on the mattress in the master bedroom. Ray Card Jr.’s son’s room was also a mess, with large under-bed drawers pulled from their tracks. Belongings were strewn about the floor. In the kitchen, food was pulled from the cupboards. In the living room, a black leather couch cushion was askew. Ray Card Jr. said he felt overwhelmed.

They also took the trash cans, he said. Goldberg declined to discuss the evidence obtained by police.

According to court records and a State Bureau of Information criminal history report, Card’s prior legal trouble began in 2013, when he was charged with a string of thefts and burglaries. In two separate court cases that year, Card faced a total of 10 criminal charges: three counts of theft by unauthorized taking, three counts of receiving stolen property, three counts of burglary, and counts of violating conditions of release.

Card resolved the charges with a deal in which he pleaded guilty to two theft charges, one burglary and one charge of violating conditions of release, and served one year in jail and was sentenced to three years of probation.

But in 2015, Card again ran into trouble when police in Gorham alleged Card, while on a break from his job, broke into a car and stole $9 from a man’s wallet. The victim chased Card down and got the $9 back and declined to press charges. But the victim also notified Card’s employer, who fired him, according to court records. A short time later on the same day, police allege, Card smashed a car window and stole another person’s wallet. Police interviewed Card and he admitted to the crime.

The 2015 incidents resulted in a violation of Card’s probation, which sent him back to jail for a year.

During the time between when Card was released from his first stint in jail and his second arrest in 2015, he tested positive for oxycodone and was referred to substance abuse counseling in November of 2014.

“Defendant was in denial of any problem (while) in treatment and was discharged, with a recommendation to seek help for a possible gambling addiction,” court records say.

Card told his probation officer that he broke into the cars during his break because he was “having a bad day,” the probation officer wrote in a January 2015 report.

Card was sent back to jail for the probation violation for another year.

But Card’s father said since his son’s most recent release, he had been doing better.

“It made him decide he had to straighten his life out and get on the right track and that’s what he’s been doing since then,” Ray Card Jr. said.

A suspect had previously been arrested and charged with one of the robberies – the April 7 holdup in Gorham of a Domino’s Pizza – but police have said the others may be connected, and some police statements suggest the unsolved robberies may have been carried out by the same man.

SMALL BUSINESSES ON HIGH ALERT

The unusual rash of robberies put the owners and employees of small businesses on alert, and led police to increase patrols and advise businesses to not take any risks if they are targeted. Police are advising people to comply with a robber’s demands rather than trying to resist or fight back, but business owners appeared to be increasingly frustrated and defiant, even keeping loaded guns behind the counters in case they were targeted.

Paul and Patra Leite own Moby Dick Variety store in Old Orchard Beach, one of the most recent targets. Patra Leite’s cousin was smoking a cigarette outside the store Wednesday evening when the robber put a gun to his back and pushed him into the business. The man then demanded money from the register. Paul Leite grabbed a club from behind the counter and said he was calling the police, and the robber fled.

The family was shaken by the experience, but speaking Friday, they said news of an arrest in Westbrook did not bring relief. Patra Leite said she does not believe just one person was responsible for the spree, and she is afraid the robber will return.

“I’m worried every time everybody comes into the store,” she said. “We didn’t have that before. Now all of a sudden, we have that fear.”

Staff Writers Gillian Graham and Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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