Some would say a credit card holds more power than many wish to carry. It is all too tempting to see an item and purchase it just by quickly running the credit card through the machine. The consequence of acting on the urge to buy is evident in the hit to your bank account. According to an article in The State Journal, the power of swiping a card isn’t limited to just credit cards; it can also be overpowering in the form of food stamp Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards—and the consequences can be even harsher.
The article tells of a West Virginia resident who took advantage of the simplicity of swiping a card for easy money, and in the process broke the law. The article reports that he and a team of two other fraudsters targeted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the trio managed to collect approximately $127,000 in SNAP benefits between June 2010 and February 2012. The leading fraudster, owner of a run-down convenience store, led the scheme supported by his two store clerks, who acted to collect SNAP benefits in exchange for money or ineligible goods. (But the boss told us to do it!)
Here’s how it worked: the clerks, and even the owner himself, would swipe the SNAP EBT card, providing customers with about $0.50-$0.60 on the dollar. (Sixty cents to the dollar? Wow, that’s generous. Most fraudsters usually go “halfsies.”) A U.S. Attorney commented on the case: “The…store wasn’t just a crooked business; it was a dangerous blight on this city.” The judge sentenced the leading fraudster to six months of house arrest as part of a three-year term of supervised release. The other two fraudsters received three years probation, six months on house arrest, and each individual will have to pay $127,000 in restitution. (A two-year scheme and they get a few months of house arrest?) The convenience store owner paid the ultimate price, as the city moved to demolish the store, completing the demolition on December 5, 2012.