Lewiston man pleads guilty to welfare fraud

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Christopher S. Frazer of Lewiston pleaded guilty Monday in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn 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. Standing with Frazer is his attorney, Adam Sherman, of Lewiston.

AUBURN — 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 rugby shirt, Frazer, 44, originally pleaded not guilty to the charges in February, but 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 that 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. Frazer could not produce a prescription for the drugs and told police “he got them from a friend.”

Frazer apologized “to the people I may have hurt by this, especially my family and friends.” He said he disputed some facts of the state’s case against him, but “I agree with the agreement,” he said, when Justice Robert Clifford asked him 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 Frazier with their EBT cards and the assigned PIN numbers 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 said 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 been 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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Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

One down, many more to go....

So glad to hear that someone is being punished. Unfortunately its just a drop in the bucket. Its people like him who are responsible for the difficulties legitimate needy people have in getting help.
This is so wrong for two reasons. One, this piece of crap is using resources meant to assist needy families , for his own selfish needs. He obviously has the cash to pay for them. The second part is the three people who sold the cards. They probably have young children, who were probably fed cheap food products, so mom and or dad could use the value of the healthy food for more important things like smokes, and booze. Thats how the system works down town. There's always someone to buy cards. As well as a never ending list of people willing to sell them. For that reason, the three EBT sales people need to follow right along with Mr. Frazer.
The worst part is the next young family who comes along, possibly due to a lay off, or some other legitimate reason. They will be treated like criminals during the screening process. Thats how DHHS works. They can never seem to capture the real criminals, so they prosecute those at hand. A real family in need.....

AL PELLETIER's picture

Well dressed for court?

He should have got six more months in jail for going to court in that getup.
Hat's off to the Lewiston PD for a job well done.

%LAFONTAINE ATLAS SUPPLY CO.'s picture

I seriously hope Shannon

I seriously hope Shannon Drummond, Robert Baylor and Duane Thomas are all charged with fraud also. They are no less guilty than Frazer in my book.

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