BANGOR, Maine — A local man who was getting General Assistance funds from the city was charged Wednesday morning with felony theft by deception because he wasn’t reporting his revenue from gathering scrap metal, police say.
Richard Dawes, 29, picks up scrap metal to make a little money on the side, and that’s OK, but not reporting it to the city on his General Assistance application is against the law, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Thursday.
Police were alerted to the crime by a caller, the sergeant said, adding that Dawes told the city he had zero income.
The city provides General Assistance to needy individuals and families to help them with rent, housing, food, medical or heating costs. The “last resort” emergency assistance program has income limits to ensure only those in danger of going hungry or becoming homeless receive assistance.
Applicants are asked to list all sources of income, all expenses and whether they have any money in the bank or assets.
“He kept saying nothing, nothing, nothing,” Edwards said of Dawes.
Officer Jim Dearing spoke with Dawes — who admitted he was a scrapper — and then went to local metal recycling centers to see if he recently had turned in any scrap, according to Edwards. The amount of money Dawes allegedly has made scrapping was tracked down under a 2008 law that requires scrap metal processors to pay sellers with checks for anything over $50.
Dawes was charged with a felony because he lied on his application and the amount of General Assistance he received was in excess of $1,000, Edwards said.
If convicted of the crime, Dawes could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Shawn Yardley, director of Bangor’s Health and Welfare Department, said his staff always follow up on fraud cases.
“We probably have a half a dozen cases in prosecution or pending prosecution right now,” he said. “The staff are very vigilant about that and refer those to law enforcement for prosecution whenever we see fraud being committed.
“We want to make sure … we’re serving those who are truly in need,” Yardley said.
Bangor’s General Assistance program gave out about $2.3 million last year, he said.
Dawes has four theft convictions in the last decade, according to Bangor Daily News archives. He also has convictions for carrying a concealed weapon, negotiating a worthless instrument, operating a vehicle with a suspended license, giving liquor to a minor and being a minor in possession of liquor.