Smile, You’ve Been Caught

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Thanks to modern technology it’s getting harder to commit fraud without being caught. But as technology advances, fraudsters also rise to the occasion and learn how to work around systems put in place to prevent government benefits programs from being robbed. Fortunately, today’s fraudster was caught red-handed on video surveillance at several franchise locations using illegally gained electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards owned by others.

The woman at the center of today’s case obtained the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT cards by trading them for illegal drugs. One of the beneficiaries told investigators that he used his food stamp benefits to buy methamphetamine. (He allowed the woman to make a $55.94 purchase with his EBT card and in exchange, he received drugs worth half that amount.) Another beneficiary admitted selling his benefits to the drug dealer for about 50 cents on the dollar. (The woman would call the 1-800 number on the back of the card to verify the balance and give him half of the card’s value in cash.)

When Sheriff deputies served a search warrant on her home, they found 22 bags of methamphetamine, each weighing about 100 grams total and packaged for distribution. They also found two digital scales in her bedroom closet, $4,720 in a safe and four EBT transfer cards not belonging to her on her dresser.

The 48-year-old woman from Nevada pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. She was sentenced to nine years in prison without parole for accepting SNAP benefits in exchange for drugs and cash over about a month and a half.

Criminals who commit fraud, waste and abuse in any government program waste taxpayer dollars that could be used for people who legitimately deserve them. It would be interesting to know if this woman was smiling when she was caught red-handed on tape. (While the government is smiling now that this criminal has been caught, it’s a sure bet that she is not smiling at the prospect of being behind bars for nine years without the chance of parole.)

Source:Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Nevada woman draws federal prison time in meth-for-food-stamps fraud,” released by The Joplin Globe on May 16, 2017.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A federal judge assessed a Vernon County woman nine years in prison Tuesday on convictions related to her acceptance of food stamps in exchange for methamphetamine and cash.

U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool ordered that Julie M. Drake, 48, of Nevada, serve the prison term without parole at a sentencing hearing in federal court in Springfield.

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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.