Regrets

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Everyone has regrets. Some are bigger than others. For instance, you may regret that you broke up with an old flame, who is now a multimillionaire. Maybe you worked too many long hours early in your career and didn’t enjoy travelling the world like your friends did. Whatever your regret may be, it probably doesn’t come close to that of a grocery store cashier who told the judge that he was remorseful about committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.

The cashier, who worked for his brothers’ small grocery store in East New York, Brooklyn, stole more than $2 million in food stamp benefits intended to help assist low-income households with the purchase of affordable food. For more than three-and-a-half years, the man gave cash in exchange for running the beneficiary’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for a higher amount. (Then the federal government would later reimburse the store for the transaction.)

Undercover agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) visited the store on at least five occasions and conducted illegal transactions that averaged $54.74 per transaction. (This was abnormally high.) Average transactions for other similar stores in New York at that time was $12.47. In one instance, the cashier ran an undercover agent’s EBT card for $119.50 in exchange for cigarettes and cash. (Cigarettes are definitely not on the approved items list.)

Because the store averaged about $50,704.65 in transactions a month with a maximum of $87,954.65 in another month, it’s easy to see how this small grocery store attracted the attention of the UDSA. Over nearly four years, the grocery store redeemed $2,458,463.92 in SNAP benefits. (Did they really think they’d never be noticed?)

The 46-year-old cashier pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. (In court, he explained that the money he stole would benefit the store, which was owned and managed by his two brothers. Fraud is all about benefiting the fraudster.) He faces more than $100,000 in restitution fees and up to a year-and-a-half in prison. One brother was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $296,257.50. (The other brother is expected to plead guilty.)

While this fraudster from New York expressed regret for committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud, it would be even better if he were required to apologize to every person he victimized. Let’s hope the sentence assigned to this fraudster will cause even greater regret, effectively preventing this criminal from ever stealing from this program, or any other government benefits program again.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Grocery cashier pleads guilty to food stamp fraud in multi-million dollar schemepublished by Brooklyn Daily Eagle on September 11, 2017.

A 46-year-old man who worked at his brother’s bodega in East New York pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing millions of dollars in a food-stamp scheme while he worked as a cashier.

Sofyan Saeed, working for his brother, Nashwan Said at Rightway Grocery, was caught exchanging cash for “food stamps” or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits between June 5, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2016, according to court documents.

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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.