Something Smells Fishy

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11425906 - close-up of payment machine while human hand keeping plastic card in it

Fish is smelly by nature. (There are a variety of words that could be used to explain the particular aroma, but pleasant would not be one of them.) An upstate New York fish market owner tried to hide a food stamp scam behind his established business, but the government caught wind of something smelling fishy. It turns out that the fish market owner used his business as a front to run two separate illegal schemes that stole more than $1.4 million in food stamps.

In the first scheme, the fish market owner illegally bought more than $1.2 million worth of food stamps from willing recipients. (There’s always a group of co-conspirators, just swimming around waiting to capitalize on the perfect scam.)For more than six years, the fish market owner exchanged food stamps for cash, although he paid less than half their value. The owner then redeemed the food stamps for their full value.

The second scheme involved convincing food stamp recipients to buy fish from other retail markets by using their electronic benefits cards (EBT). The fish market owner then bought the fish from the co-conspirators at a deeply discounted price. The food stamp beneficiaries benefited by receiving cash for the fish and the owner then sold the fish at his market for a profit of about $250,000. (Hopefully, the fish was still fresh by the time it changed hands and got passed along to unsuspecting consumers.)

The scheme was described as ”breathtaking in scale.” (The smell of the fish and the number of fraudulent transactions were conducted under the guise of a legitimate fish market which definitely can cause investigators to gasp for breath for several reasons.)

The 61-year-old fish market owner pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and is facing up to five years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine. It looks like this man’s future has been put on ice, much like the products he formerly sold at his market. However, the investigators don’t have to hold their nose anymore as they are now smelling the sweet aroma of a successful prosecution.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Fish Market Owner Pleads Guilty to $1.4 Million Food Stamp Fraud,” published on December 18, 2016.

Irving Feldman, 61, of Pittsford, pleaded guilty to $1.4 million in food stamp fraud schemes in U.S. District Court in Rochester on Friday, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Feldman faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to New York state federal officials.

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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.