Imagine walking through the grocery store, your cart tracking through a puddle of spilled milk. Over the loud speaker you hear, “Clean up, aisle four.” Tracking milk on your cart’s wobbly tires, you easily escape the mess and are back to crossing things off your grocery list. Evading the milk monster may have been easy for you, but – according to today’s Fraud of the Day from The Monitor – one Texas store owner’s tracks led investigators right to his scheme.
WIC, otherwise known as “Women, Infants, and Children,” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service program centered around providing federal grants to states for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breast feeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age five, found in nutritional risk. WIC provides food packages for those eligible for the program, offered at participating government-approved vendors.
One Texas store owner saw the benefit as a way to make easy money. Beginning in October 2004, the owner traded cash for WIC benefits. He then redeemed these benefits for a higher claim with the WIC Program. (Remember, these are benefits for pregnant women and children that we’re talking about!) The jig was up in February 2011, when the store was disqualified as a vendor of WIC.
The owner was convicted in April of defrauding the WIC program and has been sentenced to serve 24 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. (Only two years in prison for seven years of stealing benefits away from some of society’s most vulnerable citizens?) He has been ordered to repay restitution in the amount of $106,000. Seven years of tracks finally led the right investigators to the right crime. With such a long span of fraud, it’s no wonder the owner’s lucky roll came to a screeching halt and crash. Can we say, “Clean up, aisle fraud?”