Easthampton police investigating Jones News owner Alan W. Bouyea
EASTHAMPTON — Police are investigating the owner of Jones News after receiving over 20 reports from customers who say money they gave the shop’s bill payment service was not applied to their accounts.
No criminal charges have been filed against owner Alan W. Bouyea, a former city councilor. But Police Chief Bruce McMahon said his department has been working with the Northwestern district attorney’s office and utility companies to investigate the allegations.
“There is an open investigation of Jones News at this time,” McMahon said. “We’ll be reviewing all the facts before anything happens.”
Bouyea, 66, has operated the convenience store at 81 Main St. for more than 35 years. Under the store’s bill-payment service, customers pay him cash and he pays their bills to the utility company, medical office or other recipient through his own bank accounts.
But customers have been reporting to police that after giving Bouyea cash, they have received notice from the intended recipient that the bill was not paid.
At his store Monday, Bouyea acknowledged that he has been having “some issues with bill paying.”
He said he has five business accounts that he pays bills from, and sometimes he mixes up which account he should use.
“I do about 2,500 bill payments a month. Maybe I make a mistake with a dozen or so a month,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t go as planned.”
He said he was cooperating with police in their investigation.
McMahon said the number of people who have contacted the police about Jones News is “upwards of 20.”
“Just this morning, two more called,” he said.
Sherrilyn Perry of Southampton was a disgruntled customer who went to the police about the bill payment service. She said when she realized her bill had not been paid as she expected, she approached Bouyea and he gave her back her $300.
According to records obtained by the Gazette, Bouyea filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
In the March 20 filing, he stated that he had more than $45,680 in credit card debt, primarily due to “business debts.”
The records show he reported a monthly income of $241.17 from the store and stated that his five accounts at Bank of America had a total of $502 in March. He also took a personal financial management course in April as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.
Bouyea said his business was doing “all right” but otherwise declined to comment on the bankruptcy.
Bouyea, who lives with his wife, Nancy, at 34 Hannum Brook Drive, served as a city councilor from 1996 to 2001. He ran unsuccessfully for a third term in 2009.
In 2006, he was arrested on charges of operating an illegal gambling pool out of the shop. He submitted to facts sufficient for a guilty finding — meaning the charge does not show up on his record — in January 2007, and paid nearly $2,000 in fines, on top of the $7,796 that police seized when they arrested him months before.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.