Putting a Foot Down on Fraud

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There are three common ways that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamp fraud occurs. SNAP fraud can happen when benefits are exchanged for cash; retailers lie when applying to be readmitted to participate in the program; and, an applicant can lie about their current situation to obtain more benefits than they are qualified to receive. The latter method was the fraud method of choice for a South Carolina woman who stole more than $60,000 in SNAP benefits she didn’t deserve.

When a household qualifies to receive assistance, it is only for a specific period of time, after which the beneficiary must recertify or fill out another application reporting information like the household’s income, expenses, size or change of address. (If a SNAP beneficiary fails to report the truth about their situation, then they could be held responsible for committing fraud.)

Today’s fraudster received approximately $65,900 in SNAP benefits over nearly five years. She made the mistake of not disclosing her correct household income on multiple eligibility and re-certification documents required by the State of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services. (She could have been making more money than she admitted to, or perhaps someone else was providing monetary support to her household.)

This negligent fraudster pleaded guilty to felony charges of fraudulent acquisition or use of food stamps in an amount greater than $10,000. While the offense carried a maximum of 10 years and a fine of $5,000, the woman was sentenced to eight years in state prison. However, after one year behind bars, the balance of her sentence will be suspended in exchange for five years of probation and restitution of $65,900 must be rendered.

The $70+ billion SNAP program provides food to more than 43.5 million low-income Americans, mostly women and children. It’s important to note that SNAP has one of the lowest fraud rates for Federal programs. Congratulations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for tracking down this offender and setting an example for others who might be interested in committing the same crime. This case is a good example of how the USDA has put their foot down on fraud, emphasizing that no amount of SNAP fraud will be tolerated.

Source:Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Marion woman pleads guilty to food stamp fraud” posted on wmbfnews.com on May 17, 2017.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – A South Carolina woman has been ordered to pay $65,900 after pleading guilty to Food Stamp fraud.

Brenda Gail Mendoza pleaded guilty on Wednesday to felony charges of fraudulent acquisition or use of food stamps in an amount greater than $10,000, according to a press release from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

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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.