AUBURN — Four Lewiston men and a Waterford woman were charged Wednesday with scheming to defraud the state welfare system.
Those who were indicted were involved in selling or buying electronic benefit cards (EBTs) that were issued to them through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services or trading them for drugs. In each case, the person who had been issued the EBT card was complicit in the scheme, prosecutors said.
The state is continuing to crack down on welfare cheats, said Leanne Robbin, an assistant attorney general who heads up the financial crimes division. She said she and her team of lawyers are working with officials at DHHS to investigate and prosecute welfare fraud cases. They also work closely with local law enforcement officials in the cities where the fraudulent activity is taking place, she said.
An Androscoggin County grand jury rose late Wednesday and handed up indictments against:
* Katherine M. Pike, 40, of 459 Plummer Hill Road, Waterford. She was charged with one count of theft by deception and one count of misuse of identification. From July 2010 until the end of March, she stole between $1,000 and $10,000 from DHHS' Supplemental Assistance for Nutrition Program by using the EBT card that was issued to David M. Stain, 46, of 391 Lisbon St., Lewiston, according to the indictment.
If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison on the theft charge and up to 364 days in jail for the misuse of identification charge.
* Stain was charged with two counts of felony theft by deception. For two years, starting in February 2009, he stole between $1,000 and $10,000 from the city of Lewiston, the state and the federal government through the General Assistance program, according to his indictment. He gave the impression that Lisa Stain was not a member of his household when she was, the indictment says. From July 2010 to the end of March, he also stole between $1,000 and $10,000 from DHHS and the federal government by giving the impression that his EBT card was being used by him to buy food and household goods when he knew that wasn't the case, the indictment says. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to a total of 10 years in prison on the two charges.
* Manny Souza, 20, of 391 Lisbon St., Lewiston, was charged with one count of felony theft by deception, one count of misuse of identification and one count of unlawful trafficking in schedule Z drugs. From December 2010 to March, Souza stole from DHHS and the federal government's SNAP program by using an EBT card issued to Frank Ramsdell, who traded the card in exchange for marijuana, the indictment says. Ramsdell was charged in 8th District Court in Lewiston with the crime of theft as an accomplice, punishable by up to six months in jail, according to Assistant Attorney General Peter Black, who filed the charge.
* Christopher S. Frazer, 43, of 28 Walnut St., Lewiston, was charged with one count of unlawful trafficking in schedule W drugs, one count of felony theft by deception and three counts of misuse of identification. On Feb. 5, 2011, he was found with 90 oxycodone pills. From January 2010 to March 2011, he stole between $1,000 and $10,000 from the SNAP program by using EBT cards that were issued to Shannon Drummond, Robert Baylor and Duane Thomas, his indictment says. If convicted, Frazer could face 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.
* Robert W. Baylor, 34, of 128 Campus Ave., Lewiston, was charged with one count of felony theft by deception. Between January 2010 and March 2011, he stole from the SNAP program by giving his EBT card to someone else to use, according to his indictment. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.