Smile, You’ve Been Caught

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Thanks to modern technology it’s getting harder to commit fraud without being caught. But as technology advances, fraudsters also rise to the occasion and learn how to work around systems put in place to prevent government benefits programs from being robbed. Fortunately, today’s fraudster was caught red-handed on video surveillance at several franchise locations using illegally gained electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards owned by others.

The woman at the center of today’s case obtained the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT cards by trading them for illegal drugs. One of the beneficiaries told investigators that he used his food stamp benefits to buy methamphetamine. (He allowed the woman to make a $55.94 purchase with his EBT card and in exchange, he received drugs worth half that amount.) Another beneficiary admitted selling his benefits to the drug dealer for about 50 cents on the dollar. (The woman would call the 1-800 number on the back of the card to verify the balance and give him half of the card’s value in cash.)

When Sheriff deputies served a search warrant on her home, they found 22 bags of methamphetamine, each weighing about 100 grams total and packaged for distribution. They also found two digital scales in her bedroom closet, $4,720 in a safe and four EBT transfer cards not belonging to her on her dresser.

The 48-year-old woman from Nevada pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. She was sentenced to nine years in prison without parole for accepting SNAP benefits in exchange for drugs and cash over about a month and a half.

Criminals who commit fraud, waste and abuse in any government program waste taxpayer dollars that could be used for people who legitimately deserve them. It would be interesting to know if this woman was smiling when she was caught red-handed on tape. (While the government is smiling now that this criminal has been caught, it’s a sure bet that she is not smiling at the prospect of being behind bars for nine years without the chance of parole.)

Source:Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Nevada woman draws federal prison time in meth-for-food-stamps fraud,” released by The Joplin Globe on May 16, 2017.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A federal judge assessed a Vernon County woman nine years in prison Tuesday on convictions related to her acceptance of food stamps in exchange for methamphetamine and cash.

U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool ordered that Julie M. Drake, 48, of Nevada, serve the prison term without parole at a sentencing hearing in federal court in Springfield.

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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.