Lewiston convenience store owner pleads no contest to welfare fraud

AUBURN — The owner of a Lewiston convenience store pleaded no contest Monday to felony theft in connection with a scheme to defraud the federal food welfare program by allowing customers to make non-allowable purchases with their government issued electronic debit cards.

Andre Beaupre
Sun Journal file photo

Andre Beaupre appears at his arraignment in June 2012 with attorney Verne Paradie. 

Andre A. Beaupre, 62, of 95 High St., owner of Union Supermarket at Oak and Union streets in Lewiston pleaded no contest in Androscoggin County Superior Court to a charge of Class C theft by deception, punishable by up to five years in prison.

He was given no jail time. A prosecutor said anyone convicted of such a crime normally would face time behind bars, but several factors swayed the state against it, including Beaupre's age, the lack of a criminal record and his community service. He performs sign language interpretation at East Auburn Baptist Church and had helped out with that function at Auburn Police Department.

Given his felony conviction, he likely will no longer be able to perform that latter function, police said.

Beaupre also reportedly cooperated with investigators, admitting to making sales on ineligible items in the thousands of dollars.

He was ordered to repay the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP (formerly food stamps) $5,000, said Leanne Robbin, an assistant attorney general.

A half-dozen customers used valid so-called EBT or Electronic Benefit Transfer cards with SNAP benefits to purchase non-allowable items in Beaupre's store with him approving the purchases. The customers worked with police in making the illegal buys, which were captured on video.

One couple, working with investigators, used their cards to buy cigarettes and alcohol with their cards, which Beaupre manually entered into the Department of Health and Human Services transaction records as food items.

A special agent for the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzed the EBT sales at Beaupre's store before and after he was notified of the investigation and concluded that over a two-year period, Beaupre had sold between $20,000 and $50,000 of ineligible items, Robbin told the judge Monday.

Police said Beaupre engaged in the illicit sales from June 2006 through September 2011.

He was allowed to continue taking SNAP benefits at his store pending the criminal case against him, but the Attorney General's Office has alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, of the conviction.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

FRANK EARLEY's picture

The reason EBT cards are used.....

I realize, that making a living these days is no walk in the park. However, when we hear of situations such as this, everyone uses the the "hard Times" excuse to justify just about any criminal act out there.
There is a system in place to hopefully allow those who need food, to get food. The system is the product of many years of trial and error. Anyone who received "food stamps" in past years knows why they went to EBT cards, to prevent the fraudulent use of the already shrinking amount of money available for a growing number of families in need.
Now we have a nice guy, who thought he was helping a few folks out in their time of need. It's easy to look at the Federally funded SNAP program as a huge conglomerate, with never ending access to more money. That's the impression that gets people to justify the crime. "OH its only a few bucks who's ever going to notice", the problem is, this conglomerate with all the money is living right next door to you . Maybe on both sides. In the end who exactly is he helping? Not the local people with small children and no transportation. Now they have to seek transportation to get their daily groceries. I'm not sure how many people live in that neighborhood who have small children and no car, but that's how many are affected just so a few folks could have that one beer, or a pack of smokes. It's just like everything else, the people who allow the fraud, as well as the ones who commit the fraud are only hurting the ones who need food, not the SNAP program, or DHHS, the hungry kids. I hope that helps a few folks enjoy that cigarette with their beer.
By the way, figuring out the amount of damages was easy, they took the sales records before and after he was notified of the investigation. Assuming he would clean up his act after the notification. Take the difference and multiply times what ever period of time they used, a week ,or month. and you get the annual average. It's not rocket science but its an estimate.......

Nice guy?

Sorry but no. I agree that the system is in place to help people and a bunch of your comment is great, but the "nice guy helping out" is bs. When your store is given the readers and the contract to accept EBT you are made fully aware of the regulations, why they are in place, and what's going to happen to you if you break them (been there, read them).
He rolled the dice and profited nicely off of it. The fear of getting caught for this isn't there the way the fear of selling to a minor in the community is. They don't send in enough people undercover to bust people doing it and the machines are all manual entry. The state doesn't connect them to the antiquated computer systems that the corner markets have the way they do to Shaws or Walmart so this fraud goes on every day. If the owner doesn't know about it it's the clerks hooking up their friends.
I want to know why the clerks aren't on trial with him, they know they broke the law too.

Gary Grenier's picture

I wonder...

...how much he actually profited from this practice. I have a feeling that, unless there are others doing this who haven't been caught yet, these people would still buy their beer and cigarettes, the proper way.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Sorry Stacey :(

When I said "Nice Guy", I was being sarcastic. Personally I think the guy should be in Jail.....

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

justice served

justice served this person I think got caught up in this mess to try to keep his store open, not to reap in millions like some wall street banker. And I see that the courts took into account his circumstances and gave a just penalty. Union Street Market like so many mom & pop stores struggle to stay open for their community and in poorer sections they are needed as transportation is sometimes seldom to be had, yet with big box stores and chains outpricing and with a much larger selection of products they make life very hard for those small stores in your niehborhood, yet you are glad to have these small stores when you need something that might otherwise make you travel 3 or 5 miles. I do hope other stores understand that this is worng and that they must never trust their own customers. there is another thing though I don't understand a local store was raided about 2 years ago for taking debit cards for food and sending money overseas to relaltives yet I seen no prosecution of this person which in my opinion is far worse than this storekeeper.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And I presume you know why

And I presume you know why said prosecution has not been forthcoming?

Andrew Jones's picture

Let that be a lesson to all

Let that be a lesson to all of the stores out there; the same people that you're helping commit welfare fraud will hang you out to dry if/when they get caught.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great point. No honor among

Great point. No honor among thieves, right?

Andrew Jones's picture

or pirates!

or pirates!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ya got me there, Laddie......

Ya got me there, Laddie......

Michael Goldsmith's picture

Nobody wins...

First, I'd like to know how the Federal investigator arrived at his $20,000-$50,000 in 2 years figure. Why such a wide discrepancy? Which is it, $20K or $50K? Or, did he just pull those figures out of thin air.

Second, I feel bad for Mr. Beaupre and think making him a felon is too harsh. He did wrong, but imagine how many times he refused customer requests to buy unapproved things on the EBT cards. He hardly seems like the mastermind of a criminal enterprise to me. This was just a case of surviving in the dirty Lew.

The irony here is that his store will probably go out of business not being able to take the EBT cards and Mr. Beaupre will end up on the welfare rolls himself.

But hey... LePage got his man, by george! Yeah, great. Way to go...

Noel Foss's picture

Nobody wins is right.

"Imagine how many times he refused customer requests to buy unapproved things on the EBT cards."

Clearly he wasn't. Hence the current situation he finds himself in.

But I agree with you that nobody wins.
The taxpayers don't win, since we not only had to pay for the booze and cigarettes he was selling, but we also had to pay for the subsequent investigation and prosecution of his crimes.
The people who use their SNAP benefits properly don't win, because thanks to people like this there's less $$ available to help them with.
He doesn't win because he's been fined, had his reputation sullied, and loses out on being able to provide sign language services at the local police station.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

So your saying you don't

So your saying you don't mind paying for booze and cigarettes for people that got the benefits to feed their children and themselves. Your no better than the customers that turned on him.

Bob White's picture

He was probably one of the

He was probably one of the people making out.

Bob White's picture

You make a great point how

You make a great point how did they come up with the 20-50,000? I bet the same way you came up with the " Imagine how many times he refused customer requests to buy unapproved things on the EBT cards." How do you know this? Why would you feel bad for him he is a adult and Im sure he knows right from wrong. Isnt the EBT program federaly funded so why is it LaPages fault did he force the guy into breaking the law. This guy Im sure can be a good person but at the end of the day you do the crime you pay the time. Its nobody elses fault other then the guy that did the crime. Now please keep moving your heart is bleeding all over the place.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...