AUBURN — A man who confessed to brandishing a gun in a Lewiston Chinese restaurant and stealing more than $200 in cash was charged Tuesday with robbery.

An Androscoggin County grand jury indicted Joseph Tate Pepin, 39, of 128 Campus Ave., Lewiston, on the felony charge that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Pepin also was charged with misdemeanor theft.

Lewiston Police Detective Roland Godbout wrote in an arrest affidavit that Pepin reached into his jacket and showed a black handgun to the owner of the South Seas Restaurant at 260 East Ave. around 3:45 p.m. March 3. He demanded the owner open the cash drawer. When she did, he reached in and scooped up the paper currency and ran out the front door. He was seen running onto East Avenue toward Campus Avenue.

A customer who was entering the business to pick up an order identified the suspect.

The owner calculated that $263.21 was missing from the cash drawer.

Police reviewed surveillance footage from cameras at an adjacent business and marked the times Pepin entered and exited the restaurant.

The owner noted a tattoo on the neck of the suspect in her description of him; police files noted that Pepin had a similar tattoo and discovered his last known address was at Campus Avenue.

Police spoke with Pepin’s mother, who said her son was addicted to crack cocaine and had often stolen items from her and had been writing checks on her account. Godbout wrote in his affidavit that Pepin’s mother felt her son was “volatile and desperate for money.” He had taken her car while she had napped.

Police found her car and engaged Pepin on a foot chase when he neared the vehicle.

Meanwhile, the restaurant owner picked Pepin’s photo from a lineup.

Pepin told police he “really screwed up and admitted to using a black BB gun” to rob the restaurant, according to Godbout’s affidavit. He had planned to use a knife, he told police, but decided that “no one is scared of a knife anymore.”

He told police he stole $216 from the restaurant’s cash drawer and used it to “satisfy” his cocaine addiction, Godbout wrote.

Pepin and his mother gave police permission to search her car, where they found an unloaded black BB gun under the passenger seat.

He was released from Androscoggin County Jail a day after his arrest and is on supervised release with conditions, including no contact with the restaurant’s owners and not returning to the restaurant. He may not have any dangerous weapons and can be searched at any time for them.

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Police handout photo of Tate Pepin


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