Just imagine this scenario? you’re down on your luck, and you’re really low on cash; you don’t even have enough money to buy food without the help of the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. Then, someone offers you cash in exchange for part of the value of your SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. You have a choice. Door number one? do the right thing, decline the offer and use the EBT card to buy food, in compliance with the program. Door number two? take the cash, break the rules and commit fraud. Here’s the thing…this scenario doesn’t happen unless the store breaks the rules first by offering cash in exchange for the benefits. And that’s what’s alleged in today’s fraud from WSAV.com.
The article reports a grand jury has indicted seven people, whom authorities allege ”conspired to exchange more than $5 million” from the SNAP and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) programs for cash in an alleged scheme that prosecutors say involved 13 stores in Georgia. (Seven defendants and 13 stores? If these charges are true, that’s quite an organization.? All the defendants face ”up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, if convicted on one count of wire fraud conspiracy.’? Some of the defendants face additional charges, including stealing government funds and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
And, of course, there’s the money. Prosecutors are seeking $5 million in restitution, bank accounts and assets and three luxury cars. (If the charges are true, this makes sense. Luxury cars and fraud go together like peanut butter and jelly.)
Obviously, it’s important to remember that the defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But the case, like the scenario posed above, does point out how the system can be exploited by businesses that are allowed to participate in the food stamp program. This program exists to help our society’s most vulnerable citizens. So, we know how fraud can be perpetrated. The question is…how can it be stopped?
Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Seven Accused in $5M Food Stamp Fraud Case,” written by Tuquyen Mach and published by the WSAV.com on April 26, 2012.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) –Federal officials announced that seven people, including a Savannah woman, have been charged in connection with a multi-million dollar food stamp fraud case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia said a grand jury indicted 37 year-old Litricia Allen of Savannah, plus Sabrina Sesberry, Rupert Jones, Jewell Allen, Patrina Barge, Rashella Reed and Derrick Robinson.