Keeping Options Open

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If you say that you are ”keeping your options open,” that generally means that you’ll make a choice based on what is easiest or most enjoyable. For example, you can keep your options open when deciding on whether to take a day hike on a beautiful mountain or go see a movie with friends. Maybe a third option will come up that may be even more enjoyable than these two options, such as attending a gourmet dinner prepared by a neighbor. A story published in The Buffalo News tells about a man and his wife, who are guilty of food stamp fraud among other things. (They don’t appear to have the luxury of keeping their options open at this point in time. It looks like they are headed toward punishment of some sort as a result of their illegal actions.)

The story reports that a husband and his wife own a small store in Niagara Falls where they paid 50 cents on the dollar for food stamp benefits. Over a three-year period, the customers benefited by gaining cash and the store owners redeemed the food stamps with the government for face value. At the same time, it also was determined that they possessed more than 1,000 cigars without a state tax stamp. (As you know, beneficiaries are not allowed to purchase tobacco products with their food stamps.)

The couple’s home was searched by authorities who seized $183,000 in cash and personal property. (Apparently, about $42,000 of the cash came from an unrelated workers compensation claim. The lucky couple will have that amount returned to them, which can be promptly applied to their legal fees.) According to the article, because the couple cooperated with authorities in the investigation of their business associates, several charges related to sales tax and cigarette tax issues were dropped. (In order to have a chance at saving their own necks, they had to rat out their associates.)

As part of a pre-indictment plea agreement, the 60-year-old man and his 53-year-old wife both pleaded guilty to misuse of food stamps and possession of untaxed tobacco products. When sentenced, the couple could get up to four years in prison and the husband, who is not a U.S. citizen, could get deported back to India if convicted. In addition, they each have to pay $2,395 to the state Tax Department for the tobacco violation.

The story reports that if the man is convicted, he will be given the option to reverse his guilty plea. (But is this the best option?) I’m sure they are hoping the judge will be lenient after considering their willingness to participate in the investigation. One thing is for sure, they should have thought about the consequences of their illegal actions before committing the crime. As a result, their options are not looking so good right now.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Fall Store Owners Plead Guilty to Food Stamp, Tax Fraud,” written by Thomas Prohaska and published by The Buffalo News on August 16, 2014.

LOCKPORT – A husband and wife who own a small store in Niagara Falls pleaded guilty Friday to illegally purchasing food stamps from their customers and handling untaxed cigars.

Shamsher Singh, 60, and Jasbir F. Kaur, 53, pleaded guilty to misuse of food stamps, a felony, and possession of untaxed tobacco products, a misdemeanor.

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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.