Most children spend their early years learning how to pretend play.  Whether creating adventures with imaginary friends, playing house or make believe, children explore their environment and bring order to their world by using their imagination.  Pretend play usually tapers off during the elementary school years, but according to the Daily Report, three adults who operated “pretend” grocery stores throughout Georgia used their imagination to defraud the government’s federal supplemental food programs of more than $8 million. (In retrospect, I bet they wish they were only being sent to the principal’s office.

Three suspects – one woman and two men – were charged with fraudulently obtaining and trafficking in government assistance benefits by offering cash to recipients in exchange for vouchers from the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – more commonly known as the food stamp program.  The trio, who owned and operated 13 “pretend” grocery storefronts and one baby accessories store in five different cities, paid reduced prices ranging from 10 to 60 cents on the dollar for the SNAP and WIC benefits. (They weren’t just pretending to sell diapers that could be laundered – they were just plain laundering.) The defendants, along with 13 others who pleaded guilty, then submitted the vouchers for reimbursement from the federal government.

The SNAP and WIC programs are set up to help those citizens who truly need assistance in providing for their families.  This is another case that proves scamming taxpayers doesn’t pay.  These fraudsters will have to use more than their imagination to get through their time in jail and will have to face the reality that it’s time to grow up.

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