Specialty markets pop up all over the US, offering unique foods, beverages, trinkets and other great finds.  But what do you call specialty markets that offer cash for food stamps?  Easy – it’s called committing fraud.

The scene is Flint, Michigan, where the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a federal grand jury has found that the owner of a unique market guilty of participating in a food stamp fraud scam totaling $612,000.  (Here’s a question for the owner:  “In what section of the market do you find the aisle for ‘fraud’”?)  

So, how did the scam work?   Investigators say the owner received $750,000 in food stamps from February 2009 to July 2011, with $612,000 coming from “food-stamps-for-cash” exchanges.  (Who knew such a niche market existed?)  Witnesses in the case claim that the store owner was responsible for obtaining Michigan bridge cards or their numbers, an access card for those eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Michigan, and calling those numbers into the store.  Afterwards, those participating in the conspiracy were said to have entered the numbers at the local market, transferring the benefits to the market’s bank account.  (Quite the business they have going on)

The store owner’s sentencing is scheduled for November 20, 2012.

The Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), the agency charged with overseeing the SNAP program, has made an effort to monitor the abuse of food stamps within the program.  The exchange of cash for SNAP benefits is considered trafficking, a misuse of taxpayer monies and is punishable by law.  FNS disqualified 1,200 stores for trafficking in FY 2011.  (Stores like the market referenced in today’s fraud are just upping the numbers for FNS!)  There is a market for everything – legal or illegal. In the case of this food stamp fraud, we can assume this market is closed for business.

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