2016-03-08 / Front Page

Panhandlers allegedly assault women labeling them frauds

By DARCIE MOORE


A video circulating on Facebook shows Bonnie Gould of Lewiston, right, holding a sign with the word "fraud" written on it Saturday aimed at two panhandlers standing at the Topsham Fair Mall intersection, who were issued assault charges after a confrontation. A video circulating on Facebook shows Bonnie Gould of Lewiston, right, holding a sign with the word "fraud" written on it Saturday aimed at two panhandlers standing at the Topsham Fair Mall intersection, who were issued assault charges after a confrontation. TOPSHAM

A man and woman who were apparently panhandling at the Topsham Fair Mall entrance were charged with assault on Saturday, after they allegedly became physical with a mother and daughter attempting to warn motorists of alleged fraud.

Meanwhile, a video posted online of the confrontation has been viewed thousands of times.

Topsham police were called to the mall at approximately 4:50 p.m. Saturday after the incident occurred, according to Police Chief Christopher Lewis.

After speaking with witnesses and those involved, police issued summonses to Carl Brown, 79, with a last known address of Bath, and Mary Rousselle, 41, of Brunswick — charging both with Class D assault. They are scheduled to appear in West Bath District Court on April 12.

Bonnie Gould and her daughter, Makayla, of Lewiston, spoke about the confrontation Monday night.

Gould said that she and her daughter were eating at the Topsham McDonald’s, when they overheard a group bragging about allegedly scheming money from others, including from the elderly. Gould said she had just previously seen one member of the group on the median near Route 196 and Topsham Fair Mall Road holding a sign asking for money.

“They were bragging about where this money was going. And my daughter and I were fuming,” Gould said.

When the man returned to the median, Gould silently stood next to him, holding her own sign that stated “fraud,” she said.

“He looked down and he saw my sign. He folded his sign and he walked back to his car,” she said. “I felt like we had done what I had wanted to have happen. I wanted to shame him. I wanted him to take his sign and leave. I was satisfied with that.”

Rousselle then apparently confronted the mother and daughter.

In one of the videos, Gould tells Rousselle her operation is fraudulent.

Rousselle responds: “You know what? That’s none of your business.”

“Well it is my business because you’re taking money from people who are working hard,” Gould replies. “I have just as much right to stand here and say you guys are fraudulent.”

Makayla said Rousselle grabbed Makayla’s phone and broke her fingernail.

Gould said Brown allegedly punched her in the chest.

Makayla recorded the exchange with her phone’s camera and posted two short videos on Facebook on Sunday, which contained vulgar language used by Brown andRousselle.

Combined, the videos had more than 28,000 views by this morning and hundreds of shares.

“I know there are people who genuinely need help and I’m not putting them down by any means,” Gould said. “These are not people that are homeless or hungry or destitute or in need. … They’re exploiting the people who are helping them because they think they are genuinely in need.”

Topsham EMS examined one of the women who complained of pain but no one was transported, Lewis said.

The incident remains under investigation.

Lewis said police have no authority to make panhandlers leave if they are standing on the median at the Topsham Fair Mall, as long as they are not impeding the flow of traffic.

According to Lewis, Police cannot investigate the legitimacy of the claim of a panhandler holding a sign, noting it is up to individuals whether they believe the sign and provide money. There have been complaints of a panhandler acting aggressively and reaching into cars, and that individual was moved along.

“All we can do is make sure that everybody is safe when we’re patrolling through there,” Lewis said.

“It’s an active intersection. Officers are driving in that area on a regular basis and that’s all we can do just make sure everyone stays safe.”

dmoore@timesrecord.com

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Good for these two women for

Good for these two women for standing up for all of us!