Party On

Full paper bag of different health food on rustic wooden background. Top view. Flat lay

Four men in Lansing, Mich., who used their Speedwagon party store to defraud the federal food stamp program became familiar with a paddywagon after law enforcement caught up with them.

Wine, beer, tobacco and food stamps are not usually associated together. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is pretty clear that food stamp benefits cannot be used to pay for any type of alcohol or tobacco at retailer locations that accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. However, those clear directives did not stop these four party store owners from committing SNAP fraud.

According to today’s fraud article, SNAP keeps about 1.3 million Michigan residents from going hungry each month. The four Lansing-area men allowed their party-store customers to purchase alcohol and tobacco products using their EBT cards. Sometimes patrons also exchanged their food stamp benefits for cash. (While the owners were helping customers “get their party on,” my guess is that they, too, were partying with the hundreds of thousands of dollars they siphoned from the government’s welfare program.)

For more than six years, the four men from Lansing conspired to carry out their food stamp fraud scheme through the party store. (That is, until the FBI and USDA crashed their party).

Two of the men involved in the food stamp fraud case were sentenced to two years in federal custody plus two years of supervised release. Another co-conspirator received six months behind bars, while the fourth man must pay a $1,000 fine. And, they will collectively pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution for their crimes (There goes the beer money).

Today’s four fraudsters took advantage of vulnerable citizens in the Lansing area by trading their food stamp benefits for alcohol, tobacco products and cash instead of nutritious food. (While the criminals in this case consider federal investigators to be party poopers, I’m sure the government had a blast breaking up the illegal scheme and plan to party on while stopping other criminals from doing the same.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, “Men sentenced for food stamp fraud at Speedwagon Party Store, Dollar Palace,” published by Lansing State Journal on March 1, 2019.

GRAND RAPIDS – Four Lansing-area men have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution in connection with food stamp fraud at Lansing convenience stores.

Raymond Gedeon, Edward Gedeon, Youssef El-Chaer and Elias Abudaya were convicted in U.S. District Court following a USDA and FBI investigation into fraud at convenience stores, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

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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.