Everyone has regrets. Some are bigger than others. For instance, you may regret that you broke up with an old flame, who is now a multimillionaire. Maybe you worked too many long hours early in your career and didn’t enjoy travelling the world like your friends did. Whatever your regret may be, it probably doesn’t come close to that of a grocery store cashier who told the judge that he was remorseful about committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud.

The cashier, who worked for his brothers’ small grocery store in East New York, Brooklyn, stole more than $2 million in food stamp benefits intended to help assist low-income households with the purchase of affordable food. For more than three-and-a-half years, the man gave cash in exchange for running the beneficiary’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for a higher amount. (Then the federal government would later reimburse the store for the transaction.)

Undercover agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) visited the store on at least five occasions and conducted illegal transactions that averaged $54.74 per transaction. (This was abnormally high.) Average transactions for other similar stores in New York at that time was $12.47. In one instance, the cashier ran an undercover agent’s EBT card for $119.50 in exchange for cigarettes and cash. (Cigarettes are definitely not on the approved items list.)

Because the store averaged about $50,704.65 in transactions a month with a maximum of $87,954.65 in another month, it’s easy to see how this small grocery store attracted the attention of the UDSA. Over nearly four years, the grocery store redeemed $2,458,463.92 in SNAP benefits. (Did they really think they’d never be noticed?)

The 46-year-old cashier pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. (In court, he explained that the money he stole would benefit the store, which was owned and managed by his two brothers. Fraud is all about benefiting the fraudster.) He faces more than $100,000 in restitution fees and up to a year-and-a-half in prison. One brother was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $296,257.50. (The other brother is expected to plead guilty.)

While this fraudster from New York expressed regret for committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud, it would be even better if he were required to apologize to every person he victimized. Let’s hope the sentence assigned to this fraudster will cause even greater regret, effectively preventing this criminal from ever stealing from this program, or any other government benefits program again.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Grocery cashier pleads guilty to food stamp fraud in multi-million dollar schemepublished by Brooklyn Daily Eagle on September 11, 2017.

A 46-year-old man who worked at his brother’s bodega in East New York pleaded guilty on Monday to stealing millions of dollars in a food-stamp scheme while he worked as a cashier.

Sofyan Saeed, working for his brother, Nashwan Said at Rightway Grocery, was caught exchanging cash for “food stamps” or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits between June 5, 2012 and Jan. 31, 2016, according to court documents.

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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.