On the Hook

On the checkout line.

At Seafood and More in Danville, Va., you can order up some frog legs, jumbo shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, and even alligator if you’re adventurous. And apparently, in the past, SNAP benefits were also available for market price. (I can guarantee you that particular item was NOT listed on the menu.) Bobby Lee James, owner of the restaurant, has pleaded guilty to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud for illegally exchanging cash for SNAP benefits.

Court documents provided evidence that SNAP redemptions by Seafood and More exceeded the State of Virginia’s average for all other seafood specialty class stores by more than $2,465,555. (An abundance of sea creatures must have been jumping right into James’ nets, along with a few folks who were trying to illegally cash in their government food assistance benefits.)

It’s ok for beneficiaries to redeem their SNAP benefits for food, such as seafood and other approved items, but not cash. The more than $2.4 million in transactions caught the attention of law enforcement, who followed up on their suspicions by opening an investigation.

James, 69, admitted that he redeemed SNAP benefits for cash at the establishment for approximately eight years. He also confessed to telling his employees to do the same. (Apparently, investigators reeled in another confession: he knew his actions were wrong.)

Altogether, Seafood and More caused the SNAP program to lose $1,835,767. James pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud and one count of food stamp fraud. When sentenced, James faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. (I highly doubt the justice system will let this big catch off the hook.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Danville Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud, Food Stamp Fraud,” dated January 27, 2021.

ROANOKE, Va. – Bobby Lee James, the owner of Seafood & More in Danville, Virginia, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Roanoke to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by exchanging cash for SNAP benefits, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced today.

James, 69, pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud and one count of food stamp fraud. At sentencing, James faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.


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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.