Food (Stamp Accountability) Pyramid

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While there has been much improvement on the Food Pyramid in recent years, alcohol and cigarettes are still not recognized as part of a healthy diet. And, much to one Georgia native’s dismay the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a.k.a. the food stamp program doesn’t recognize them either.

Today’s Fraud of the Day from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the case of a convenience store owner who admitted to allowing customers to use food stamps to purchase over $500,000 worth of alcohol and cigarettes. The defendant in this case not only allowed customers to purchase unapproved items with their food stamps, but she also charged customers much more for goods purchased with food stamps than with cash (It was a service charge. Reaching behind the counter for cigarettes can be pretty exhausting).

Despite authorities warning her to quit the unauthorized activity in 2009, she continued to operate her illegal food stamp market from 2009 – 2011. The article reports the fraudster was sentenced to serve two years and nine months in a federal prison and pay restitution in the exact amount of money that she stole. (So even with a warning and apparent oversight, she was able to steal over $500K? What are the odds of the government getting back their $557,421.32? Or, do you think taxpayers might come up just a little short on this one?)

SNAP fraudsters steal a lot of money from taxpayers. Government agencies need to keep a closer watch on what beneficiaries purchase with this benefit and what stores are selling to beneficiaries who use this benefit. Hmm…beneficiaries, store owners and the government: sounds like a food stamp accountability pyramid to me.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on the article ”Food Stamp Fraud Lands Woman in Prison,” written by David Ibata at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 1, 2012.

A Marietta convenience store owner who admitted letting customers use food stamps to buy more than $500,000 in alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and other unapproved items was sentenced Friday to serve two years, nine months in a federal penitentiary.

Shamsha Mirza Vasaya also was ordered to pay restitution in the exact amount of the money she stole from the government: $557,421.32, Channel 2 Action Newsreported.

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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.