Squaring Up

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The term “double-crosser” refers to someone who does something different from what they promised. Today’s fraudster agreed to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a retail provider, but didn’t abide by the government program’s rules. He double-crossed the government twice and now he finally has to square up.

The former Providence convenience store owner’s first offense was participating in the illegal redemption of SNAP funds. (About $1.1 million in fraudulent transactions to be exact.) The ill-gotten funds, which were deposited into bank accounts he controlled, were used to gamble, buy real estate and pay for personal entertainment expenses. (Don’t you just love fraudster logic?)

For the defendant’s first crime, he was sentenced to five years of probation with 730 days of intermittent confinement at a detention center so he could continue to operate his business. (Call me crazy, but this lenient sentence was probably not a good idea as you will see. Wait for it.) Investigators later determined that he had sold his store, but neglected to tell the court when sentenced. (Yep, there’s the second crime. Did he really think his probation officer wouldn’t notice?)

The government stepped in at this point (probably fuming mad) and revoked his probation for lying about the situation. At his second sentencing, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit SNAP fraud and money laundering. (Admitting guilt was a really good move since he was guilty, twice.)

The 46-year-old man was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. (Just as a side note, the U.S. Sentencing Guideline range for this type of offense is between 37 and 46 months. Can someone tell me why he didn’t get the maximum sentence since this was his second offense?) He must also serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term and pay $1,188,729 in restitution.

In case you’re interested about the details of how investigators determined the former store owner was defrauding SNAP, it’s important to note that this man’s convenience store redeemed $2,755,125 in SNAP benefits over more than six years. About 45 percent of the food stamp transactions were for $100 or more and 72 percent were greater than $50. (Evidently legitimate convenience store SNAP transactions rarely total more than $50.) Let’s hope this criminal’s second sentence will drive home the message that the government doesn’t like to be defrauded once, much less twice and will punish appropriately.

Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Former store owner gets prison time in food stamp fraud schemeposted on turnto10.com on July 10, 2017.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former owner of a Providence convenience store who masterminded a more than $1 million food stamp fraud scheme has been sentenced to about 2 1/2 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Sami Almuhtaseb was also sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to repay the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program more than $1.1 million.

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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.