Pretend Play Doesn’t Pay

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Most children spend their early years learning how to pretend play. Whether creating adventures with imaginary friends, playing house or make believe, children explore their environment and bring order to their world by using their imagination. Pretend play usually tapers off during the elementary school years, but according to the Daily Report, three adults who operated ”pretend” grocery stores throughout Georgia used their imagination to defraud the government’s federal supplemental food programs of more than $8 million. (In retrospect, I bet they wish they were only being sent to the principal’s office.

Three suspects – one woman and two men – were charged with fraudulently obtaining and trafficking in government assistance benefits by offering cash to recipients in exchange for vouchers from the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – more commonly known as the food stamp program. The trio, who owned and operated 13 ”pretend” grocery storefronts and one baby accessories store in five different cities, paid reduced prices ranging from 10 to 60 cents on the dollar for the SNAP and WIC benefits. (They weren’t just pretending to sell diapers that could be laundered – they were just plain laundering.) The defendants, along with 13 others who pleaded guilty, then submitted the vouchers for reimbursement from the federal government.

The SNAP and WIC programs are set up to help those citizens who truly need assistance in providing for their families. This is another case that proves scamming taxpayers doesn’t pay. These fraudsters will have to use more than their imagination to get through their time in jail and will have to face the reality that it’s time to grow up.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Jury Convicts Defendants In $8 Million Food Stamp Fraud,” published in the Daily Report on July 5, 2013.

A four-day trial in Savannah ended last week with the convictions of two Riverdale residents and their Chattanooga cohort for a scheme that the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Georgia said defrauded federal supplemental food programs of more than $8 million.

A jury convicted Rashella Reed, 41, and Derrick Robinson, 41, both of Riverdale, and Tory Hardwick, 21, of Chattanooga, for their roles in defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as the Food Stamp program) and the Women, Infant, and Children Program (WIC) through a string of 13 storefronts in Atlanta, Decatur, Augusta, Savannah, Macon and Columbus, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia announced today.

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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.