HALLOWELL

June 23, 2011

A merchant's murky past

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

HALLOWELL -- When Boynton's Market closed earlier this year, city residents lost their only local grocery store.

click image to enlarge

Thomas Hibbert, who wants to reopen the former Boynton’s Market in Hallowell, stole $74,000 from his mother and has failed to fully pay restitution, which could result in a 2010 felony conviction being reinstated against him. He’s also facing civil charges he stole as much as $90,000 from a recovering alcoholic from Bailey Island in 2007 and 2008. Hibbert identified himself as Tom Hubbard in an initial interview with the Kennebec Journal.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Thomas Hibbert 2007 jail photo

A Randolph businessman planning to reopen the shop in July has ambitious plans for it, including an outdoor sales counter on the Union Street side, indoor seating and a wider selection of products.

Thomas Hibbert said his plans for what he wants to call the Hallowell General Store are not "foo foo or high end," but a little store that would be great for the community.

But Hibbert's plans may be sidetracked by his past.

In the eyes of federal law, Thomas Hibbert is bankrupt.

He's an admitted thief, on deferred disposition from a 2010 guilty plea in which he admitted stealing $74,000 from his elderly mother.

And this week, a Portland lawyer increased the legal jeopardy for Hibbert, filing a civil lawsuit alleging he gained the trust of a mentally ill alcoholic woman to steal $80,000 from her.

Hubbard and Hibbert

Hibbert contacted the Kennebec Journal this week seeking coverage for his imminent takeover of Boynton's -- a landmark business in Hallowell since 1936, with its central location and signature red-and-white awnings.

In an interview Tuesday, he rolled out an ambitious business plan for the store, identifying himself to a reporter as Tom Hubbard.

But in April 2007, Hibbert was arrested and charged with 11 counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, accused of stealing $74,000 of his mother's money.

In January 2010, Hibbert, 56, pleaded guilty in Lincoln County Superior Court to one count of felony theft in the case.

He agreed on Jan. 11, 2010, to pay $30,000 in restitution to the District Attorney's Office over a one-year period. If he paid the full amount, charges would be dropped. If he didn't, the guilty plea was to be reinstated and a guilty verdict entered, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, plus restitution.

Lincoln County District Attorney Geoff Rushlau said Wednesday that Hibbert has only paid "a fraction" of the mandated restitution, and is five months past deadline.

"There would be a question whether he is in breach of this," Rushlau said. "My impression is that we're still waiting for a sentencing."

Rushlau said Hibbert's lawyer, Leonard Sharon, has repeatedly asked for continuations of the disposition hearing, originally scheduled for Jan. 27.

Another hearing date in February was continued to June 30.

Rushlau said Sharon has now asked for continuation of next week's hearing. Sharon did not respond to an email inquiry for this story.

"There is no indication (in Hibbert's file) as to why these were continued," Rushlau said.

Hibbert's mother had signed over power of attorney to Hibbert allowing him to use her money, according to a 2010 story in the Lincoln County News. But the arrangement went sour after Hibbert used the money improperly, and Hibbert was charged with theft.

Meanwhile, a Portland lawyer filed a civil complaint Wednesday in Cumberland County Superior Court alleging Hibbert stole money from a mentally ill woman struggling with alcoholism.

'Tortured this woman'

According to the complaint filed by Thomas Cox, Hibbert stole thousands of dollars over a three-year period from Krista Johnson, of Bailey Island, after meeting her at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

According to Cox, Hibbert in 2005 began holding himself out as "having experience and expertise in the management of money and property" after learning Johnson had inherited $90,000 and her lifelong home on Bailey Island from her father.

The complaint describes Johnson as "struggling to overcome her alcohol addiction," dealing with depression and anxiety, and thus "susceptible" to Hibbert.

In April 2007, Hibbert allegedly advised Johnson to borrow money against the equity in her home, then assisted her in taking out a $50,000, 30-year mortgage on her property from a company called Castle Point Mortgage Inc. -- at 11.25 percent interest.

(Continued on page 2)

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