A Gift Horse

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When a judge decides to give a convicted criminal a break for his or her offense, it would behoove the criminal to be grateful and not look a gift horse in the mouth. An article in The Oregonian states that a man, who bilked approximately $1 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), may have appeared unappreciative for the possibility of a reduced sentence.

The story states that a 42-year-old man committed the fraudulent scheme through two businesses that he owned, including a halal meat market and a gas station. He carried out fake transactions and exchanged food stamp benefits with cash for a fee. The hundreds of thousands of dollars that he stole from the federal assistance program funded a lavish lifestyle that included a million-dollar home and a luxury vehicle. (Keep in mind this was all paid for by taxpayers.)

The fraudster pleaded guilty to 18 counts of aggravated first-degree theft and unlawful use of food stamps. He arrived at his sentencing with $35,000 in hopes the amount would help to decrease his prison sentence. The story states that the criminal’s lawyer requested probation instead of a jail term stating that the owner had not brought harm to anyone and that he had been a very hard worker. (He worked pretty hard to take money away from people who deserved the government benefit.)

The judge didn’t buy the defendant’s story entirely and sentenced him to a maximum of 16 years in prison. However, she did agree to reduce his sentence by one year for every $10,000 he pays before his restitution hearing. That would put the minimum sentence he could receive as seven years and four months. (Cutting a prison sentence in half sounds like a pretty good deal to me.)

At this point, the fraudster should have been relieved that the judge was trying to give him a break. Instead, he became indignant and stated that he would not pay any more money and expressed the desire to go to jail for the rest of his life. (Is this guy crazy?) It remains to be seen how much money, if any, the man will be able to come up with prior to his restitution hearing. It looks like greed and pride may trump his ability to get obtain a ”get out of jail early” card.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Beaverton Food Stamp Fraud Kingpin Sent to Prison for up to 16 Years,” written by Emily E. Smith and published by The Oregonian on May 30, 2014.

Mahmoud Tajgerdu came to court Friday with $35,000 that he hoped would help keep him out of prison.

It didn’t. And he still owes much more.

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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.