How does an engineer get to jail? No, this isn’t one of those funny jokes with a clever ending, though I’m tempted to say, “Wire Fraud!” Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article from The Herald-Dispatch which describes how a West Virginia engineer made his way to jail, engineering a fraud scheme – and coming up short.
The article reported that the defendant engineered (though not well) a 17-month operation from June 2010 to November 2011, in which he traded SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, for cash and items ineligible for purchase under the foods stamps program, ultimately defrauding the federal government (aka the taxpayers) by $297,871. (It doesn’t take an engineer to defraud the government – people do it every day!) He pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting food stamp fraud for a September 2011 incident in which the defendant was caught in the act selling $149.83 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in exchange for $110 at a gas station he owned.
In an attempt to keep the engineer out of jail his attorney made a plea for a lighter sentence, arguing that the man as involved in his local community, with a degree in civil engineering and no criminal record. A scam of this nature would typically render and individual to serve a prison term of 18 to 24 months. (Really? He stole hundreds of thousands of dollars willingly! And he expects no jail time because he participates in the community? He defrauded the community!) Even so, the judge sentenced him to one year and one day in federal prison, explaining that his positive attributes were not enough to keep him out of jail. His sentence also includes three years of supervised release, plus…the judge ordered him to repay the $297,871 he stole from the government. And, the judge started collecting by ordering the seizure of $96,663 from three of the fraudster’s bank accounts.
This fraudster made it clear that it getting to jail isn’t the hard part – getting out of it is. I guess he should have engineered a better defense.