Keep Your Mouth Shut

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If you were asked what qualities make someone a good person, what characteristics would you include? Perhaps words like kind, honest, trustworthy, ethical, self-controlled and respectful might make the list. While on the witness stand, an Augusta, Georgia woman considered herself to be a “good person” in front of the judge, but in a recorded conversation with a relative after receiving a food stamp fraud conviction, she intimated she felt no remorse because she didn’t think she did anything wrong. Consequently, the judge tacked on an additional punishment. (Perhaps another quality of a “good person” would be knowing when to keep your mouth shut.)

For five years, the woman from Georgia falsified government applications for assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She failed to report Social Security benefits received for her twin sons. Further research shows that she was honest in reporting additional government benefit income such as rental assistance, child support and education assistance. (She knew these sources of income would not affect the amount of government benefits she received unlike Social Security payments. So, she just left that one important detail off of the application.) Apparently, she didn’t do it just once but actually twice a year for five years. (She knew how to work the system and intentionally left off the fact that she received more than $1,400 per month in Social Security benefits on behalf of her son.)

Food stamp fraud is not the only problem this Georgian has. The woman who considered herself a “good person” was the owner of a personal care home. (Personal care homes are residences that provide a home, meals, supervision and assistance with personal care tasks for older people or individuals with physical, behavioral health or cognitive disabilities. These folks are unable to care for themselves, but they do not need a nursing home or medical care.) An investigation was opened into her business after a 59-year-old man was found dead in her home. So far, she has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of exploitation and neglect of disabled or elderly adults and this case is pending. (Suffice to say that this “good person” is in quite a predicament.)

The 37-year-old woman from Augusta was convicted of public assistance fraud and eight counts of making false statements in a government matter. When receiving her sentence, she tearfully explained that she was a loving person with four kids who wanted to “get things right.” She also said she was not a “bad person.” (Well, I guess it all depends on how you see things. If you’re not bad, does that mean that you are good?) The Georgian was sentenced to 12 years in prison for food stamp fraud because she collected nearly $18,000 in SNAP benefits she did not deserve.

Evidently, the “good person” was unaware that she was being recorded when she met with a relative in jail following her conviction. (Let’s just say she thought that the charges against her were fabricated and that she had done nothing wrong.) When the judge got wind of that, an additional 13 years of probation was added to her 12 years in prison. (That ought to teach her to keep her mouth shut. Let’s hope that she’ll use that time behind bars to become a better person – the first step on the road to becoming a good person.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Augusta woman gets lengthy prison sentence for food stamp fraud,” published by The Augusta Chronicle on April 3, 2019.  

An Augusta woman convicted of fraudulently collecting nearly $18,000 in food stamps was sentenced to 12 years in prison Wednesday.

The day before, a Richmond County Superior Court jury convicted April R. Paulk, 37, of public assistance fraud and eight counts of making false statements in a government matter. She failed to report income repeatedly to collect more food stamps than she was entitled to over a five-year period.

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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.