Federal pharmacy robbery case set for plea hearing
Portland — A 43-year-old Cushing man federally indicted for robbing a Rockland pharmacy at knife point is scheduled to change his plea Thursday, April 17, said federal prosecutor Halsey B. Frank.
Frank said it is expected Elbert M. Ranquist Jr. will change his plea from not guilty to guilty in U.S District Court. No sentence has been recommended yet, he said.
The defendant faces federal charges after he was indicted Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court in Portland by a federal jury for inference with commerce for robbery. The federal charge is a Class C offense, punishable up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to court records.
Ranquist is represented in the federal case by attorney J. Hilary Billings.
Ranquist was originally charged by the state with felony armed robbery, stealing drugs and violating probation after he was arrested at his home Aug. 5 by Maine Drug Enforcement Agents for brandishing a knife at Jensen's Pharmacy and demanding drugs.
The state dropped the case against Ranquist as the federal government took over prosecution of the case.
Before the plea hearing was set, a jury was scheduled to be chosen May 5, to hear the case, and the trial may have begun immediately thereafter before U.S District Judge Nancy Torresen, according to a notice from the federal court.
A motion to revoke bail, filed by the state, will be taken up again after the federal case is finalized. If Ranquist is convicted, four years of outstanding time for an arson conviction will be added concurrently to the federal sentence. Ranquist admitted he violated his probation in Superior Court Feb. 24.
Eric Morse, Ranquist's attorney on the motion to revoke bail portion, said in February he expects the federal case will move quickly.
Ranquist was indicted Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court in Portland by a federal jury for inference with commerce for robbery. The federal charge is a Class C offense, punishable up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to court records.
Ranquist's former attorney in the case, Philip Cohen, said in November it is a federal offense to rob a pharmacy, but added he is unsure of why Ranquist's case is being selected for federal prosecution.
Ranquist is on probation for a 2009 arson and burglary conviction and was arrested at his home Aug. 5 by Maine Drug Enforcement Agent James Pease and Maine State Trooper Scott Quintero. He is charged with Class A armed robbery, Class C stealing drugs, and violating probation.
Rockland Police Deputy Chief Wally Tower said Ranquist is known by Jensen's Pharmacy staff and shortly before 6 p.m., Ranquist went into the pharmacy dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, and brandished a knife while demanding oxycodone. He left the store with 10 5-milligram pills.
Owner Curtis Jensen said at the time he was "100 percent sure" Ranquist was the assailant, and added he called Ranquist by name and that he responded to it during the robbery, according to an affidavit filed in Knox County Superior Court. Jensen told police Ranquist was in the store earlier that day picking up prescriptions for himself and his wife.
When authorities went to Ranquist's home, he denied robbing the pharmacy, but admitted to being in the store earlier in the day, according to an affidavit.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.