Recent data states that more than 46 million people participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and more than 8 million people receive benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Both programs are intended to support economically disadvantaged individuals and families. An article posted on MyArkLaMiss.com tells about a Louisiana grocery store owner who stole millions of dollars from these two programs and deserving beneficiaries through three of his grocery stores.
Just as a quick refresher, SNAP offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. The WIC program provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children under age five who are determined to be at nutritional risk. Neither one of these programs was designed to line the pockets of undeserving criminals with cash.
The story states that a grocery store owner provided cash and ineligible items to SNAP and WIC recipients in exchange for their benefits. He accomplished this through several grocery store businesses. (When one of the businesses was permanently disqualified from participating in the SNAP program, he opened another one with a co-conspirator.)
When the new businesses were cleared to participate in the SNAP program, the business owners and others allowed both SNAP and WIC recipients to once again exchange their benefits for ineligible items. When that store closed, the next grocery store was opened in the name of the co-conspirator in the same building as the one that closed. (So, did no one think that was suspicious?) As you might guess, once again cash and ineligible items, such as tobacco and alcohol were exchanged for SNAP benefits.
The 60-year-old grocery store owner pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of theft of government property. He faces up to five years in prison for the conspiracy count and up to 10 years for theft. He also faces forfeiture of money and property connected to the charges. (It is estimated that he acquired approximately $5 million from his scheme while operating two of the grocery stores.) His sentencing date has been scheduled. His co-conspirator, who is scheduled to be sentenced, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Both men face up to three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Congratulations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General for catching up to these repeat offenders and taking them to task. (Their days of exchanging illegal SNAP and WIC benefits are over.)
Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Monroe Business Owner Pleads Guilty to SNAP/WIC Benefits Fraud,” posted on MyArkLaMiss.com on April 2, 2015.
MONROE, La. United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a Monroe grocery store owner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide cash and ineligible items to SNAP and WIC recipients in exchange for their benefits.
Allen Woods, 60, of Monroe, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of theft of government property before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes. The plea will become final when accepted by U.S. District Judge Robert G. James.