Do you ever take for granted the convenience of an ATM?  With one quick swipe of a card and by punching four digits, you have your bank at your disposal.  A Pennsylvania fraudster picked up on this convenience and set up her own food stamp ATM system, according to a CBS Philly article.

The article reported that a Pennsylvania woman told investigators that she fled from her home country nearly two decades ago to seek refuge in America after a civil war made living conditions undesirable.  She operated a food market in Delaware County, where authorities discovered that she participated in a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (a.k.a. food stamps) fraud scheme.  The judge closed the case on the fraudster’s cash/food stamp exchange, sentencing her to 21 months in prison, for a scam that cost the government well over $200,000. (That’s all she gets?  What about restitution?)

During the hearing, the judge referred to the fraudster’s store as an “ATM for food stamps,” meaning individuals could utilize the store as a metaphorical ATM, where they would provide the operator with food stamps, and receive cash in return.  (That seems pretty easy – no wonder she defrauded the government of over $200,000.)  Investigators explained that an individual with food stamps would enter the store, and provide, for example, $100 in food stamps to the fraudster.  She would take the food stamps, and provide $60 or $70 in cash to the individual, making a $30-$40 profit.  (She actually charged pretty low – some fraudsters demand half!)  In court, leading up to her sentencing, she accepted responsibility for the scheme, telling the court that she had “lost her way” and was pleading for mercy.   

Regardless of her past situation, there is no excuse for this woman to participate in defrauding government aid programs, such as SNAP.  Her explanation of “losing her way,” led her on a straight path to jail where she will have 21 months to find herself.

  1. That was the punishment she received. What happens to all the people that utilized her services?? Should they still have access to the food stamp program? I know they have kids that have to eat, but if they were selling the amounts, maybe they should only get only what they didn’t sell for future months? They should be reprimanded for what they participated in and they should be monitored and put on some kind of probation involving receiving food stamps!!!

    • Laura,
      I agree with your thoughts. Here is the issue. It is impossible to determine who has and has not participated in SNAP fraud unless it is observed. If I use my EBT card legitimately, and the next person does not, how can you distinguish between the two transactions? We cannot assume everyone is guilty. I believe the correct resolution is legislation making the theft of SNAP benefit by the card holder to be as follows a) a crime punishable by one day in jail for each $100 stolen, and b) you are eliminated from ever being able to participate in SNAP for life.

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