You can always tell when a storm is barreling down your way. The clouds eerily creep over the earth, melancholy in nature. The winds calm at first, turn the leaves on trees, scratching branch to branch. And in the short amount of time it takes the storm to approach, the blasts of thunder and rain subside to a sunny aftermath – in most cases. In today’s Fraud of the Day from CBS Miami, one Florida couple’s storm of trouble isn’t ending in rainbows; rather, their storm is ending in stripes, behind bars.
A Florida couple has been sentenced to four years in prison in a scandal attempting to swindle nearly $3.2 million out of the U.S. government. The husband-wife duo (How nice, a family fraud business) pleaded guilty in May 2012 to defrauding a federal program providing financial aid to nursery producers suffering loss and clean up costs post-hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and Wilma. By using stolen identities of other nursery producers and false state agricultural certificates (Awesome what you can do on a home printer…) to file fraudulent damage claims, the couple was able to deposit the received aid into various bank accounts opened for their scheme.
Prosecutors revealed the wife of the dynamic duo was elected to the Farm Service Agency’s county office committee in their hometown, where she became a part-time federal employee. Her husband actually did own a nursery business, in addition to their local Pizza/Bread restaurant. Investigators found that the couple transferred the $500,000 earned from the scheme to a Costa Rican company, which officials claim was owned by the couple. In addition, nearly $700,000 was transferred to Costa Rica for the purpose of a land purchase, and about $100,000 was transferred into the bank account of the Florida Pizza/Bread restaurant.
While the couple was able to bring in the money for a span of four storms, the funds died as quickly as the winds. Maybe four years in prison will teach them not to mess with Mother Nature…or the government taxpayer!