Diet of Greed

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There are so many diets available that it ‘s hard to determine which one might work the best. Some are low carb, high protein, raw food, or vegetarian in nature. An Arkansas woman signed herself up for a diet of greed and stole more than $260,000 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from three states.

The woman carried out quite an elaborate scheme that involved using stolen personal information, a real estate website and the postal service to trick three states into sending federal food stamp benefits to her in a fourth state. In all, she stole $262,691 from Utah, Louisiana and Texas and the surprising thing is that she did it all within a 13-month period of time.

The fraudster obtained the benefits through the State of Utah by submitting about 75 fake online applications. She used a real estate website to enter in legitimate addresses plus stolen personal information such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers and phone numbers to apply for the benefit cards.

The State of Utah subsequently verified the application through a phone call and voila, the cards were issued to the address on record. The woman then placed a hold on the mail at all of the addresses through the postal service. She paid a premium to have the mail forwarded to her apartment in Little Rock, Arkansas. (I wonder if the residents at the addresses ever wondered why they weren’t receiving their mail.) Then the woman simply activated the benefit cards by calling a phone number.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was contacted by the Utah Department of Workforce Services after discovering that many SNAP benefit cards issued in Utah were being redeemed in Arkansas. (States are only supposed to issue benefits to in-state residents for use in that state.)

After a search warrant of the woman ‘s apartment was executed by the USDA Office of Inspector General, agents found 17 bags full of personally identifiable information, and detailed notebooks containing information about the scheme. They also found mail that belonged to other residents that lived in the same apartment complex as she and her four children, who ranged in age from elementary school age to adult. (They even found a tax refund check that belonged to a neighbor who had been complaining for months that her check had not been received and a utility check made out to another neighbor.)

The woman pleaded guilty to 17 counts of wire fraud. (That was probably a good idea since she might have fared worse with a jury trial.) When sentenced, she will be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

So what did the woman use the benefit cards for? Sometimes, she spent them on herself. Other times she sold them and used the cash to pay her utility bills, rent and car payment. It looks like this fraudster is about to be put on a different kind of diet in the near future. She’ll no longer be feasting on government subsidies and no doubt she’ll be shedding a few pounds of body weight if she is placed behind bars. Congratulations to the USDA OIG for preventing this woman from gorging herself with food stamp benefits that she did not deserve.

Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “In federal court in Arkansas, woman admits to $262,691 food-stamp fraud,” published by Arkansas Democrat Gazette on March 17, 2017.

A woman admitted Thursday to using stolen identifiers, the Zillow real estate website and routine postal services to fool three states into sending federal benefits meant for poor people straight to her Little Rock doorstep.

“Yes sir, I’m guilty,” Keashia Latriese Davis told U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. when he asked if she was sure she wanted to plead guilty to 17 counts of wire fraud instead of taking her chances with a jury trial.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.