Clean Up On Aisle Fraud

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41074050 - close-up of person hand giving money to other hand

Imagine walking through the grocery store, your cart tracking through a puddle of spilled milk. Over the loud speaker you hear, ”Clean up, aisle four.” Tracking milk on your cart’s wobbly tires, you easily escape the mess and are back to crossing things off your grocery list. Evading the milk monster may have been easy for you, but – according to today’s Fraud of the Day from The Monitor – one Texas store owner’s tracks led investigators right to his scheme.

WIC, otherwise known as ”Women, Infants, and Children,” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Servic? program centered around providing federal grants to states for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breast feeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age five, found in nutritional risk. WIC provides food packages for those eligible for the program, offered at participating government-approved vendors.

One Texas store owner saw the benefit as a way to make easy money. Beginning in October 2004, the owner traded cash for WIC benefits. He then redeemed these benefits for a higher claim with the WIC Program. (Remember, these are benefits for pregnant women and children that we’re talking about!? The jig was up in February 2011, when the store was disqualified as a vendor of WIC.

The owner was convicted in April of defrauding the WIC program and has been sentenced to serve 24 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. (Only two years in prison for seven years of stealing benefits away from some of society’s most vulnerable citizens?? He has been ordered to repay restitution in the amount of $106,000. Seven years of tracks finally led the right investigators to the right crime. With such a long span of fraud, it’s no wonder the owner’s lucky roll came to a screeching halt and crash. Can we say, ”Clean up, aisle fraud?”

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Mission Grocery’s Owner Gets 2 Years for WIC Fraud,” written by Ildefonso Ortiz and published by The Monitor on August 29, 2012.

McALLEN — A former grocery store owner who bilked a federal food aid program will spend two years in prison and must pay back the more than $100,000 taken.

During a Tuesday morning hearing, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Fernando Ramirez Estrada to 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised released and ordered him to pay $106,000 in restitution to the federal government.

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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.