In Part I, I wrote about recovering a stolen $3,000 piece of equipment from a business owner who, for years, had been involved in criminal activity without being caught.

Part II detailed locating a brand new four-wheel drive pickup buried in the snow of Northern Maine. It had been stolen from a dealership in New Jersey.

Once I learned from Maine State Police Headquarters that the vehicle was, in fact, stolen, I had to remove it. I thought the owner of the Sporting Camps would notice that someone had been around the vehicle and become suspicious. I solicited help from Duane, a friend with a front-end loader. He had experience running heavy equipment, which turned out to be a very good thing.

As he made his way through the deep snow, he came across another buried pickup. That vehicle turned out to be brand spanking new too. And stolen, but from a different location in New Jersey.

I could not wait to visit the owner of the Sporting Camps. He was serving drinks at his bar, which played host to a who’s who of criminals in the Greenville area. Whenever I needed to find someone, I usually started here.

The owner and I sat in one of his booths and I informed him of what had been located on his property.

The blood drained from his face. What did he have to say about the vehicles and how they got there? Nothing. I don’t think he was able to form words. I wanted in the worst way to arrest this guy, as he was clearly part of the criminal element of the group. But, at that point, it was not to be. I needed more and I was going to get it.

The original informant, C1 had information about a series of arsons that, for years, had plagued the town. If I remember correctly, there had been at least 13 suspicious fires, including historical buildings.

Fires had destroyed several businesses. C1 had information as to how they were set and who set them, as he had heard the strategy conversations. Where did he say the planning was done? On the stools of the local bar.

For months, these guys would drink heavily in the bar. When they ran out of money, a couple of guys would go to a business of one of the drunks, light a fire and make it back to his stool to watch fire fighters rush to the blaze.

I needed more than one person telling me this, though, to make a case. Fortunately, C1 knew the names of many people who were involved and whose places were burned down to match. I took the information and started to talk with witnesses and suspects. Trooper Barry Delong was assigned to work the cases with me, as it was overwhelming for one person to take it on and carry out regular duties.

One suspect was in jail in Dover-Foxcroft so there really was no better time to approach him. Barry and I went to the jail, brought him into an interview room and told him what we had and how he was implicated.

He completely denied having anything to do with any of the fires but his body language told us something far different than what his mouth was saying. This guy was a small fish. After his denial, I got out of my chair and started orating – I have no idea where it came from but I directed it right at him.

Barry later told me that he was even ready to confess. After the speech, the suspect Paul agreed to give up what he knew.

For the next several hours, Paul wrote statements at a desk, describing the fires with which he was involved — who hired him, what he burned, how he did it and how much he was paid.

Word was getting around about the scope and depth of the investigation. Soon I was getting phone calls and tips at home. Someone gave me the name of the suspect who brought the hot vehicles to the Sporting Camps. He was an Irishman from New Jersey. The cars were reportedly stolen and not part of an insurance scam, like I thought they might be. Even a photo of the suspect was provided.

After putting together a photo lineup, I took the photo to possible witnesses and they verified that this was the man transporting the stolen vehicles into the area.

The case was coming together and a big dent was going to be made in the criminal aspect of this little town before it was all over.

Tune in next time for the surprise conclusion.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper. The 28-year veteran lives in Unity. The award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.