Auger: deceptive friend 'destroyed my business'
|Jim Auger looks through the stack of emails he saved, evidence of the ongoing correspondence between himself and who he thought was David Rockefeller and Guy de Rothschild. The emails were actually written by Steven Lucia. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)|
March 24, 2010TILTON — Jim Auger never expected to lose his successful Main Street business, and in his worst nightmares he never dreamed that his friend would cause its demise.
Auger said Swan Lake Natural Foods was a profitable business when he bought it in 2001, and it stayed that way until Steven Lucia entered his life in 2003.
Lucia pled guilty Feb. 16 to three counts of theft by deception. He was sentenced to jail for 12 months, with jail time suspended for good behavior and compliance with the terms of a two-year probation.
He was ordered to pay restitution to Auger in the amount of $32,017.95.
According to Auger, the amount of money Lucia actually stole, directly and indirectly, from Auger and his store, was much more – enough that it cost him his business, he said.
"In 2004, this store was grossing almost a quarter million a year, and I've got the papers to prove it," he said.
A rocky start
Auger said he first met Lucia after Lucia's girlfriend visited Swan Lake Natural Foods and said Lucia would love the store.
"As the weeks went by, he sort of started hanging around the store," Auger said.
Auger said he was wary of Lucia, who talked frequently about conspiracy theories, and in particular about the well-known and wealthy Rockefeller and Rothschild families. He said that Lucia told him he written a letter to David Rockefeller to dispute claims he had read in book. What's more, Auger said that Lucia claimed Rockefeller had written back.
"I'm thinking, this guy's full of (it)," Auger said. "He persisted with this David Rockefeller thing."
As Lucia spent more time in the store, Auger said they had conversations about the Secret Society, which Auger found interesting. Still, Auger admits that he should have trusted his intuition; at one point Lucia had butted heads with Auger's girlfriend, Nancy Smart.
"I knew (he was lying) the first time I shook his hand," Smart said, but "I didn't have point-blank evidence."
Auger said that during a confrontation with Smart, Lucia slammed the door on his way out of the store.
"Like a fool, I let him back in," Auger said.
The thefts begin
The first "swindle," Auger said, happened in February 2005. Auger was looking to buy vacuum tubes for his stereo, which are hard to find. He found some on eBay but didn't have an account; Lucia did. He asked Lucia to pay the seller for the tubes, and Auger cut him a check for the cost, $607.62. Auger has the copy of the check he gave Lucia, but he never got the vacuum tubes.
"He had an answer and a story for everything," Auger said.
At this point, Auger said, Lucia claimed he had formed friendships with Rockefeller and Guy de Rothschild and was in regular contact with them. Auger said Lucia was helping him sell quilts for the store, on a volunteer basis. Many of those quilts were allegedly being sold to Rockefeller. The first scam there, Auger said, was a "refund check" that Lucia showed Auger he had sent to Rockefeller, in the amount of $1,370, for a quilt that Lucia said he had sold to Rockefeller that Rockefeller didn't like. Lucia showed Auger a copy of the check as proof that he had paid the money back from his personal account and asked Auger to repay him, which Auger did.
A police investigation later proved that Auger had been making copies of blank checks from his personal account, writing in names and dollar amounts on the copy, then re-copying the copy. His own checks were never used.
"Supposedly he was handling the whole (quilting) business," Auger said. "He kept me out of it."
Auger pointed to a list that Lucia had kept as a record of quilt payments, which were paid in irregular installments so Auger couldn't track monies coming in. Eventually, Lucia volunteered to regularly watch the store for Auger.
"And that's where he really started going to town," Auger said.
Friendship strengthens and lies build
Over the years, Auger said, he and Lucia became closer friends. Auger attended Lucia's father's wake and met his family, and he served as best man in Lucia's wedding. Auger said he also spent hours driving Lucia to dental appointments to deal with a "horrible periodontal infection."
"For four years, I bent over backward to help this guy," Auger said.
In February 2006, Auger started getting emails from Rockefeller and Rothschild. He kept copies of all of them; the printed stack of back-and-forth emails is about six inches thick. He was receiving them under the presumption that Lucia was friends with them, and many of the emails pertained to Lucia. Lucia went so far as to pretend he was talking on the phone with them, Auger said. Auger said that at the time, he was thinking it was exciting to be in communication with these "pretty powerful people."
He said it never occurred to him that Lucia was pretending to be Rockefeller and Rothschild.
Lucia didn't save his stories just for Auger – many on Tilton Main Street heard the tales of his relationship with Rockefeller and Rothschild, Auger said. Former Main Street Program Director Judy Rich said Lucia did indeed tell her he was friends with the Rockefellers and suggested she write to them to see if they would help fund certain downtown projects.
"We put together a presentation and then never heard anything," Rich said. "We weren't expecting anything, but we figured we had nothing to lose."
During this time, Auger said, Lucia suggested that he join groups like the Rosacrucians or Knights Templar. Auger is a scientologist, and Lucia knew he was interested in achieving immortality.
"The guy's a genius in playing on people's emotions," Auger said.
Auger started getting emails from the Illuminati and agreed to pay $15,000 for books, DVDs and other program materials to become a member. The money was channeled through Lucia, who had also supposedly joined, Auger said. The material he received turned out to be Lucia's used materials, he said.
The truth is discovered
Despite warnings from Smart, Auger continued to trust Lucia. That all came to a head on May 14, 2008, when Smart's daughter, an employee at Hall Memorial Library, saw Lucia typing an email on a library computer that was addressed to Auger, from Rockefeller.
"Once we knew that, the whole house of cards went down," Auger said.
It took Auger 10 days to go to the police, and eight months of investigation by Auger and the Tilton Police Department to discover the extent to which Lucia had lied and stolen, Auger said. Auger has retained the boxes of evidence used in court.
"The grand jury had plenty to go on," he said. "He left a paper trail a mile long."
Auger said Tilton Detective Matt Dawson talked to the real David Rockefeller and got a statement as proof that Rockefeller had never met, been in contact with or even heard of Lucia.
Lucia was indicted April 9, 2009 for theft by deception, a Class A felony. The first count was for creating the false impression that Auger had paid Sinclair Pharmacy for products when he had not; the second was for creating the false impression that Auger had reimbursed customers for merchandise using his checkbook when he had not; and the third was for creating the false impression that Auger was paying for photo packs that were meant to promote the sale of Swan Lake Natural Foods overseas. Auger said the final count alone cost him $10,478.
The amount Lucia owes Auger in restitution is the amount that could be easily proven in court, Auger said.
Swan Lake Natural Foods closed doors in fall 2007, and Auger dissolved the company in 2008. He spent some time working for a disabled gentleman, then opened a new store on Main Street called Gemini. Auger said he's still struggling financially and emotionally from the fallout and is convinced that his former friend is a sociopath.
"Every day he would look me in the face and lie," Auger said. "No normal person does that."
Auger said his purpose in sharing his story is that he doesn't want anyone else to fall for the type of scheme Lucia put him through.
"If it's too good to be true, it probably is," he said. "I feel pretty stupid to have bought this four-and-a-half year line of bull."
Attempts to reach Lucia, who is purported to be living at his mother's house in Massachusetts, were unsuccessful.