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36583220 - shopping with shopping cart in snack department of supermarket

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service provides explicit instructions on what Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can and cannot buy. The idea behind the government-funded program is to provide beneficiaries with money to purchase items including bread, cereal, fruit, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, as well as seeds and plants which can produce food for the approved household to eat. Nowhere in that list do you see manicures or pedicures. (Well, of course. These salon services are not edible, nor nutritious.) Kick back in a massage chair and relax while you read about today’s fraudster — a Rochester, New York nail salon owner who was recently arrested and charged with SNAP fraud.

Most nail salons provide services like polish changes, skin care and waxing. The Rochester-based nail salon was a bit different. The establishment also sold cigarettes and jewelry in addition to the regular salon services, but no food. Despite the fact that no food was sold, the owner accepted payment through SNAP EBT cards. (He allegedly charged double the amount for EBT customers over nearly six months, then processed the illegal transactions at three nearby SNAP benefit-approved grocery stores.)

Five purchases at the nail salon were made by undercover federal agents using a SNAP EBT card. Before the nail polish could dry, a search warrant allowed the seizure of multiple SNAP EBT cards, many handwritten notes containing PINs, and lists of cash amounts. (Eight individuals who were linked to the confiscated notes were interviewed. They confessed to using their SNAP EBT cards to purchase nail services and to obtain cash.) In all, $26,000 in fraudulent SNAP transactions were identified.

The 46-year old Rochester nail salon owner was recently arrested and charged with SNAP fraud for accepting the government benefits, even though his business was not authorized to do so. Even though this man has been charged with SNAP fraud, remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. However, if he is convicted, he’ll face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (It will take more than a new coat of nail polish and a facial to improve his situation, because where he could end up is not exactly known for its pampering. And, he just might have to endure a few painful hangnails.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Rochester nail salon owner charged with SNAP benefit fraud,” posted on 13WHAM.com on March 22, 2019.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHAM) – A Rochester nail salon owner was arrested and charged with accepting SNAP benefits when his business was not authorized to do so.

Hang Lam, 46, was arrested and charged with the unauthorized use, transfer, acquisition, and possession of USDA food stamp benefits.

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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.