A former store owner in Florida has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for his role in a case of government fraud. He was charged with conspiracy to defraud the USDA and for making false claims to the same agency.
History of fraud
The defendant was previously barred from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) after he was caught buying SNAP benefits. SNAP is a program to help low-income families in need with purchasing healthy foods. Court documents allege that this defendant would exchange money for customers’ SNAP benefits. This is in direct violation of SNAP policy.
However, the defendant did not stop the actions that caused him to lose his SNAP enrollment privileges. Instead, he used the help of a co-conspirator—who has also been charged—to commit more acts of fraud. The defendant falsified documents to deflect his ownership of his convenience store. Yet, he continued to operate his store and exchange cards for cash under his co-conspirator’s name. It was determined that he profited well over half a million dollars in this way. The judge presiding over his case ordered the defendant to return that money to the USDA in restitution.
The long road ahead
This case was investigated by several federal agencies including the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, and Homeland Security The defendant will spend twenty-seven months in a federal prison and repay more than $654,000 in restitution. In addition, the individual who allowed his name to be used on documents as the new store owner will also pay a heavy price. For his role in facilitating fraud, he will spend 12 months behind bars.