Food Stamp Fixer

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There’s a black market for everything; apparently, even food stamps. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that a Georgia convenience store owner was caught swindling the government out of millions of dollars by paying customers 60 cents for every dollar they sold him in food stamps.

This store owner was guilty not only of a federal offense when he ”trafficked” food stamps, but also for charging the food stamp sellers an astronomical transaction rate (a rate that would make even payday lenders envious) and forcing them to also purchase goods from his store (with convenience store markups, no less). Eventually, federal authorities caught up to him and seized hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with his home and his store, as they charged he had acquired them through fraud and money laundering. (Cleanup in the fresh fraud aisle!)

A federal judge convicted the 49-year-old store owner of trafficking food stamps, from which he illegally netted about $6 million, and sentenced him to four years and three months in prison, followed by three years of probation. He also must pay more than $5.9 million in restitution. (Better start coupon-cutting.)

Food stamps beneficiaries have an immediate need for sustenance and money, but a crime that tempts them to cash in instead of using the benefits for nutritional assistance hurts both the needy and those whose tax dollars help fund these programs. To exploit that desperation—to the tune of $6 million—and undermine the government programs that serve to alleviate it is condemnable. (The best sign for this store: Out of Business!)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”DeKalb store owner sentenced to federal prison for food stamps scheme,” written by Ellen Eldridge and published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution on February 22, 2016.

A former DeKalb County convenience store owner convicted of trafficking food stamps has been sentenced to federal prison, authorities said Monday.

Tessema Lulseged, 49, of Decatur, has been sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Horn said in a statement.

He was also ordered to pay more than $5.9 million in restitution.

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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.