Two men who were arrested at the close of a local investigation into a burglary at a Winterport auto body shop are also linked to a broader case involving gun thefts that took place in Orrington and Millinocket last month.

Justin McCowan, 21, of Orrington and 19-year-old Brandon Caparotta of Winterport have both been arrested and charged with burglary and theft. Caparotta was arrested Aug. 26, and McCowan was arrested Sunday, Sept. 26. McCowan and Caparotta are accused of breaking into Forrest Auto Body in Winterport Aug. 17 and taking a wide range of tools with a combined value of $35,000.

Deputy Ben Seekins and Detectives Jason Bosco and Merl Reed of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office responded to the burglary complaint and processed the scene for evidence, according to a press release from WCSO. Reed acted as the primary investigating officer on that case. As the investigation wore on, Reed worked with Special Agent Brent McSweyn of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Trooper Chris Hashey of the Maine State Police.

McSweyn and Hashey’s involvement in the Forest Auto Body burglary case stemmed from an ongoing ATF and Maine State Police investigation into a break-in at an Orrington gun shop in August. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, that investigation resulted in federal theft of firearms charges for Caparotta and 18-year-old Tyler Damon of Brewer.

Damon and Caparotta are being charged with theft of firearms from the premises of a federally licensed dealer and possession of stolen guns. In addition, U.S. District Court documents show that 19-year-old Corey Ryan Damon of Millinocket, who is a cousin of Tyler Damon, is also being charged with theft of firearms from the premises of a federally licensed dealer.

Caparotta, Tyler Damon and Corey Ryan Damon are facing those charges in connection with a burglary at the Mill Creek Rod and Gun Shop in Orrington during the early morning hours of Aug. 23. Corey Ryan Damon allegedly broke into the gun shop while Caparotta acted as lookout.

Police recovered a total of 22 guns from an Orrington residence, identified in court records as McCowan’s home, where Corey Damon dropped them off after the burglary.

The owner of the Orrington gun shop was alerted to the burglary by the barking of his dog just before 3 a.m. Aug. 23. The gun shop is operated out of the owner’s basement, according to court records.

A few minutes later, the business owner found the door to his shop open and three rifles on the floor, as well as a camouflage jacket and a cell phone battery that police later linked to Corey Ryan Damon. The gun shop owner also told police he saw a car and a truck leaving the scene, according to court documents.

While investigating the gun shop break-in, Hashey learned that a truck had gone off the Wiswell Road in Brewer and had become stuck. Court records state that the truck, which was being driven by Corey Ryan Damon, was stolen from Corinth.

The stolen vehicle led to charges for the Damons, who were both arrested a few hours after the gun shop burglary on charges stemming from the alleged truck theft.

Further investigation and police interviews with the Damons and Caparotta revealed that 12 of the guns police recovered came from the Orrington gun shop, while the remaining firearms were reportedly taken from a Millinocket residence during a separate break-in.

Based on information McSweyn uncovered during his investigation, the agent obtained a federal search warrant for Caparotta’s North Main Street apartment. As McSweyn drove past Caparotta’s apartment Aug. 26, he spotted Caparotta loading items into the back of a sport utility vehicle, according to court documents.

McSweyn identified one of the items Caparotta was putting inside the vehicle as an SKS-type firearm, which matched the description of guns that were reported stolen in the Millinocket burglary. McSweyn contacted Maine State Police Sgt. Erik Baker of the State Police Tactical Team, who was nearby preparing to assist with the execution of the search warrant. At that time, McSweyn stated he observed Caparotta get in the vehicle and drive away from the apartment building.

“At that time Sgt. Baker and other members of the MSP conducted a felony stop of the SUV in the parking lot of the apartment [building],” stated McSweyn. “Caparotta was ordered out of the SUV and he was placed in custody and handcuffed.”