Lewiston man pleads guilty to welfare fraud

Posted Aug. 27, 2012, at 3:59 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 27, 2012, at 4:59 p.m.

AUBURN, Maine — Christopher S. Frazer of Lewiston pleaded guilty Monday to welfare fraud and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs. He was sentenced to three years in jail, with all but six months suspended, for stealing $3,600 in benefits from Maine’s food stamp program.

Appearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court in denim shorts and a red, white and blue striped polo shirt, Frazer, 44, originally pleaded not guilty to the charges in February and changed his plea after reaching a sentencing deal with the attorney general’s office.

According to Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, Lewiston police contacted Frazer in February to talk to him as a possible witness to another crime. While in his Walnut Street apartment, police saw three EBT cards and asked Frazer about them.

According to Mitchell, Frazer told police he had purchased the cards from three different friends and was “using the cards as if they were his own.”

During a search of the apartment, police also noticed 186 prescription pills in the apartment. Frazer could not produce a prescription for the drugs and told police “he got them from a friend.”

Frazer, who apologized “to the people I may have hurt by this, especially my family and friends,” said he disputed some facts of the state’s case against him, but “I agree with the agreement,” he said, when Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Robert Clifford asked Frazer if he understood the terms of the plea deal.

As part of the EBT trafficking “scheme,” Mitchell said food stamp recipients Shannon Drummond, Robert Baylor and Duane Thomas provided Frazer with their EBT cards and the assigned PINs in exchange for cash between January 2010 and March 2011.

“The only purpose and legitimate use of an EBT card is to provide basic food necessities to the qualified recipient,” Attorney General William Schneider stated in a press release following the sentencing. “Treating this taxpayer-funded benefit as something to be bought and sold for cash is illegal.”

“I’m sorry,” Frazer said, as two friends and family members watched from the courtroom gallery.

Frazer pleaded guilty to one count of Class C theft by deception, three counts of Class D misuse of identification and one count of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs. He was sentenced to three years in jail on the theft charge, with all but six months suspended, and two years of probation with the requirement that he pay restitution.

Frazer was also sentenced to six months on the charge of misuse of identification, to run concurrently with the theft sentence, and a $400 fine for the unlawful possession charge.

Frazer requested that his sentence be delayed and that he be allowed to report to jail on Oct. 19 to allow him time to take care of some ongoing health issues. The court granted him permission, and ordered him to start paying $3,600 restitution in $25 monthly payments starting in May 2013.

Had he be convicted at trial, Frazer could have faced up to 10 years in prison on the trafficking charge, up to five years in prison on the theft charge and a total of a year and a half in jail on the misuse charges.

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