Would you be willing to serve up to 20 years in prison and pay a fine of $250,000 in exchange for illegally obtaining $5,000 in government benefits you didn’t deserve? It seems like a pretty high price to pay for a relatively small sum of money. But that didn’t stop Meg Gurung, 35, and Ago Gurung, 35 of Pittsburgh, Penn. from being greedy. They clearly didn’t think through their food stamp fraud scheme until it was too late. (Fraudsters tend to ignore the possibility of consequences when plans go awry.)
Today’s two fraudsters, who owned a store by the name of Gurung Brothers LLC in their hometown, were selling more than just groceries. They were also trafficking in food stamps. (Not a good idea if you have agreed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) terms as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer.)
The two defendants in this food stamp fraud case engaged in exchanging food stamps for ineligible, non-food items and cash at their store. What are eligible items, you ask? Fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry, and fish; dairy products; breads and cereals; snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages; and seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat. (It’s a good guess that the food stamp recipients had to hand over some additional money or benefits to get those non-eligible items. Why not rob the government and your customers too?)
The Gurung brothers collected benefits from the USDA totaling approximately $5,000 for the unauthorized purchases. (They probably had grand delusions that they were going to make lots of money. The $5,000 was just the beginning of their ruse, until it ended abruptly.)
The USDA’s Office of Inspector General investigated the brothers’ store and uncovered the scam that led to their prosecution. The Gurung brothers both pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and are schedule to be sentenced. They are each facing up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both when they face the judge.
You can bet that the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will disqualify the fraudsters’ store from the SNAP program. (Just goes to show that greed might yield wealth in the beginning, but it ultimately leaves its victims with heavy losses and wondering if it was really worth it.)
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Pittsburgh Store Owners Plead Guilty to Food Stamp Fraud,” dated February 23, 2022.
PITTSBURGH – Two residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of food stamp fraud, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.
Meg Gurung, age 35, and Ago Gurung, age 35, both of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one count before Chief United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak.