Scam on Aisle 2

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Cropped shot of a woman holding a basket while shopping at a grocery store

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) is designed to end hunger among Americans with limited means. SNAP provides financial benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, to purchase only food at authorized stores (Unless the grocery is running special on SNAP fraud).

Sin Y Sit and his wife Qiao Jiang, who owned Mei A. Asian Grocery in McKeesport, Penn., began letting customers illegally exchange SNAP credits for cash in March 2014—paying the recipients fifty cents on the dollar. Sit and Jiang also let customers buy tobacco. (Perfect! Using taxpayer money intended for nutrition to buy a product that undermines rather than supports health.) Then, there were other ineligible items they allowed their customers to purchase using their SNAP EBT funds.

Sit compounded the fraud by withdrawing money the USDA deposited in the store’s account from the fraudulent EBT transactions, using the cash to pay more customers for their food stamp benefits. Before the scheme was halted in May 2017, the grocery owners took in between $250,000 and $550,000 in fraudulent funds. (That’s no small potatoes.)

In October 2020, Sit pleaded guilty to charges of Conspiracy, Food Stamp Fraud, and Money Laundering Conspiracy, which could have landed him up to 45 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both. In April 2021, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison, followed by two years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $351,439 in restitution.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, “McKeesport Grocery Store Owner Sentenced to Prison for Food Stamp Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy,” dated April 29, 2021.

PITTSBURGH, PA – A resident of Glassport, PA, has been sentenced in federal court to 27 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a two-year term of supervised release, on his conviction of Conspiracy, Food Stamp Fraud, and Money Laundering Conspiracy, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

United States District Judge William S. Stickman imposed the sentence on Sin Y Sit, 46, of 502 Marie Street, Glassport, PA 15045.

Additional information is from a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, “Owner of McKeesport Asian Grocery Pleads Guilty to Food Stamp Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy,” dated October 6, 2020.

Additional information is from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, “McKeesport grocery store owner sentenced to prison for fraud,” dated April 29, 2021.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.