Second Chances Don’t Come Often

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The United States correctional system is founded upon a principle that its name should give away—reforming those who have committed crimes into honest members of society; and that is why we should hope for a rare story of redemption in today’s all-too-common story of food stamp fraud, as reported by MassLive.

Food stamp fraud hurts a program that helps some of the most disadvantaged members of our country, and often takes the form of trading cash for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards used in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Store owners engaging in SNAP fraud often pay a fraction of the EBT card’s value to the card holder in cash, then redeem the full value of the benefits to the state. This was the case for a Massachusetts fish and meat market owner, who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic as a lawful green card holder in order to find better employment prospects in the United States. He pocketed half the money from each fraudulent transaction. (Defrauding government programs is not a sustainable business model in any country.)

The store owner pleaded guilty to the food stamp trafficking, access device fraud and larceny over $250, and agreed to pay $38,000 in restitution to the state. The judge also gave the man two suspended 364-day jail sentences and five years probation. In addition to these penalties, the man will no longer be able to accept EBT card payments, which will have a substantial effect on his business.

In accepting the sentencing recommendation, the judge acknowledged the irony that if the defendant had been a U.S. citizen, he would have been subject to a more substantial sentence. The lenient sentence gives the man a generous chance at reforming his ways (so we can only hope that he recognizes that fact and runs his business more reputably in the future).

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”If Springfield Market Owner Illegally Cashing Food Stamps Had Been US Citizen, Punishment Would Have Been Greater, Judge Says,” an article published by MassLive on March 22, 2016.

A meat and fish market owner who admitted food stamp trafficking was given two suspended sentences and probation. Julio Rodriguez admitted Friday that he let people use their SNAP benefits illegally, and gave them cash at his North End store. The 56-year-old would pocket half of the money and give the customer half. Rodriguez has agreed to pay $38,000 in restitution to the state.

The sentence recommendation was fashioned in such a way that Rodriguez, who has a green card, will not be deported to his native Dominican Republic. Rodriguez still runs the market but cannot accept payment by EBT cards. Thirty percent of Rodriguez’s business came from SNAP or WIC so he has lost that percentage of income.

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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.