Stealing Candy from a Baby

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Young woman receives a canned food item from food bank. An unrecognizable volunteer hands her the canned food item.

What’s lower than stealing candy from a baby? Two government employees guilty of Women Infants and Children (WIC) program fraud.

The WIC program, which falls under the oversight of the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is a special supplemental nutrition program that provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant or postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. (Today’s fraudsters from Guam were insiders who abused the government program for personal gain.)

Two employees of the Guam division that administers Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) have reached plea agreements on charges of fraud. (The SNAP program supplements the food budgets of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.)

Yolanda Digomon, a Public Health nutrition assistant, and co-worker Jennifer Topacio were indicted in September 2015 on third-degree felony charges including identity theft, fraudulent use of public assistance, and unauthorized use of benefits. On Jan. 8, 2020 Digomon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. (There’s an understatement.)

Under the plea agreement, Digomon was sentenced to one year of prison for committing food stamp fraud with all of the time suspended. Topacio also reached a plea agreement; while sentencing is pending, she is not expected to serve significant jail time.

Both women must pay $200 fines and perform 200 hours of community service. (Perhaps they can provide tips on how to avoid being a victim of identity fraud?) While both women remained employed after their indictments, the department director has stated her intention to fire them after the cases are resolved in court. (Sounds like a good idea to me.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from the Pacific News Daily article, “Public health worker Yolanda Digoman spared prison in food stamp case,” published Jan. 8, 2020.

A woman working for the government agency that administers Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, previously known as food stamps, pleaded guilty Wednesday to official misconduct.

The documents charging 63-year-old Yolanda Digomon provide little details but it does state Digomon unlawfully used, transferred or received food stamps and fraudulently used public assistance. She was also indicted on a charge of identity theft.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.