88 Federal Indictments Made in Massive Food Stamp Fraud Cases
R. Robin McDonald, Daily Report
June 10, 2014
Edward Tarver, US Attorney, Southern District of Ga.John Disney/Staff
A federal grand jury in Savannah has indicted 88 defendants in what federal prosecutors are calling one of the largest federal food program frauds ever prosecuted.
The alleged fraud involved the purchase and sale for cash of more than $18 million in food stamp benefits and vouchers issued by the Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program.
Edward Tarver, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, said in a written statement: “The government alleges that the defendants stole taxpayer-funded benefits intended to feed the most needy families and children in our communities.”
Tarver said the grand jury handed down two separate indictments. One indictment accused 54 defendants of mail and wire fraud conspiracy as well as conspiracy to launder money. Those defendants are accused of conspiring to open what federal prosecutors called “purported grocery stores” in Atlanta, Lithonia, Stone Mountain, Riverdale, Macon, Savannah, Garden City and LaGrange in order to buy WIC vouchers and food stamp benefits for cash.
Once the storefront operations were open and had secured federal approval as WIC and food stamp vendors, many of the defendants, according to federal prosecutors, allegedly canvassed low-income neighborhoods soliciting the food programs’ participants to exchange their benefits for cash rather than food. Prosecutors said the defendants are accused of buying food stamp benefits and WIC vouchers for cash at a fraction of their face value and then redeeming them for full credit.
An additional 34 defendants were charged in a second indictment with exchanging more than $1,000 of WIC vouchers or food stamp benefits for themselves or their children for cash, federal prosecutors said.
WIC provides infant formula, juice, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income pregnant and post-partum women and to infants and children up to age 5 who are considered nutritionally at risk. Program participants receive three-month vouchers they can exchange at authorized stores. The food stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides food stamp benefits through electronic benefit transfer cards similar to debit cards.
It is a federal crime to trade WIC of food stamp benefits for cash.
Companies, agencies mentioned: Women Infants
Filed Under: Criminal Law