Sweet Tooth

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Have you ever strolled by a bulk candy store and been enticed by the enormous bins of brightly colored sweets? (Even if you have a great deal of willpower, how could you not be attracted to all of that sugar? It’s so pretty and delicious too.) An article published in The Clinton Herald details how one woman got creative and disguised her food stamp fraud scheme by posing as a candy store owner.

Perhaps in the beginning, the 40-year-old entrepreneur really wanted to operate a legitimate business or maybe she just had a serious candy habit she needed to support. (Sweet tooth addictions can sometimes drive people to do irrational things.) Apparently, she applied to the Food and Nutrition Service for the ability to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards as a method of payment for specific items approved by the Food Assistance Program offered in her candy store. Her application was approved and she was issued an EBT machine. (And an unofficial license to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP).)

The story goes on to state that the woman never actually opened her candy store, although she did rent retail space in the building she included on her application. (Did I mention that her household also qualified for food stamps?) She used the EBT machine to bill the government program for approved products that were never purchased in her store. (Because there was no store.) She helped herself to the government benefits and assisted other beneficiaries by swiping EBT cards on her store processor machine. She immediately withdrew money from the purported retail store’s bank account. She then used the EBT machine to refund various EBT cards allowing her to both receive cash and the food assistance benefits. Her fraudulent efforts netted approximately $7,500 that she did not deserve.

The fraudster pleaded guilty to second-degree fraudulent practices. She could receive a prison sentence for up to five years and a fine of up to $7,500. The story states that she struck a plea deal and may receive a suspended sentence.

This fraudster came up with a clever idea for her scam; however, if she had thought it through, she may have chosen merchandise that was actually approved by the Food and Nutrition Service in the first place. We don’t know what her final sentence will be, but there is no sugar-coating the implications that her actions have had on those people who need these benefits to survive.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Woman Admits to EBT Fraud,” written by Samantha Pidde and published in The Clinton Herald on May 17, 2014.

CLINTON — A Maquoketa woman admitted in court Thursday to defrauding the Food and Nutritional Service, the state of Iowa and the Clinton County Department of Human Services during part of 2010 and 2011.

Vickie M. Bragg, 40, pleaded guilty to second-degree fraudulent practices, a class D felony. She told District Court Judge Henry Latham that between Oct. 14, 2010, and March 29, 2011, she used an Electric Benefit Transfer machine to purchase groceries for herself and her friends.

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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.