Not Legit

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Criminals take great effort to make their fraudulent activities look legitimate. An article in The Pittsburg Post-Gazette describes the case of a convenience store owner involved in a scheme to bilk the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) out of thousands of dollars from bogus transactions made to look like they were legitimate food sales.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, qualifying food sales under the SNAP program include items that members of a household can eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry and fish and dairy products. Items that CANNOT be purchased with SNAP benefits include alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, tobacco, non-food items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, vitamins and medicines or hot food that can be consumed in the store. (That’s a pretty detailed list.)

The story reports that over approximately four years, the 56-year-old store owner didn’t adhere to the SNAP requirements and accepted more than $128,000 in food stamps in return for ineligible products. The fraudster allowed food stamp beneficiaries to purchase cigarettes, tobacco products and soap using their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. (That’s a big no-no.) These transactions allowed the store owner to receive funds from the SNAP program to which he was not entitled.

The man pleaded guilty to conspiracy, food stamp fraud and money laundering. Further research revealed that the law provides a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both.

This criminal’s sentence will be dependent upon how serious the judge considers his offenses. (I’d say stealing money from the government is pretty offensive.) It’s a certainty that this experience will teach the fraudster that he can’t circumvent the law any more by performing illegitimate activities. He will have to comply with the sentence that is handed down to him. (And that is legit.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Cheswick Man Charged with Food Stamp Fraud Pleads Guilty,” written by Richard Lord and published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on March 13, 2014.

A Cheswick man who ran Natrona Mart in Natrona Heights pleaded guilty today to conspiracy, food stamp fraud and money laundering in the latest conviction in a multi-agency crackdown on fraud in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

Waqar A. Malik, 56, was charged for accepting thousands of dollars worth of food stamps in return for cigarettes, then making the transactions look like legitimate food sales in order to get government reimbursement.

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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.