What drives people to commit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud? I’m sure lots of factors come into play. Maybe it is a crime of opportunity. It could be just about greed. Or…maybe it is even just for kicks. In some cases, we may never know for sure; but what’s clear is that people who really need the benefits are the losers, when fraudsters cheat the system. And that’s what happened in two instances in today’s “Fraud of the Day” from CBS 13 – WOWK.
The article reports that two people at separate local markets in West Virginia decided to commit SNAP fraud, also known as food stamp fraud. The first defendant – a convenience store owner – admitted to defrauding the SNAP program from June 2010 to November 2011 by trading Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for cash. Of course, he didn’t pay the benefit recipient the full cash amount for the dollar (there would be no profit in that); he only provided 50 to 65 cents of each dollar and collected the rest for himself. In total, he collected $297,871 from his scheme. (I guess pennies really do add up!!) He pleaded guilty to defrauding SNAP and faces up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine and restitution at sentencing.
The second defendant described by the story – a convenience store worker – conspired with others in an illegal plot to swipe EBT cards. In all, she collected about $127,000 in SNAP benefits from her share of the profits alone. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (What? No restitution for conspiracy?)
The good news here is that these fraudsters were caught, and the fraud was stopped. The bad news is that this fraud is easy to perpetrate. We need to be as meticulous in detecting and prosecuting the fraud as the fraudsters are in siphoning off pennies on the dollar.