Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Food Stamp Fraud in a Food Stamp Nation

[Food Stamp SNAP Logo Depiction from wikipedia]
Times are tough.  Some people claim that the United States has become a food stamp nation.  According to the latest government statistics, over 46 million Americans now receive food stamp assistance.  Most store owners and food stamp recipients are honest.  But, as to every government program, including the food stamp program, there will always be some fraud and cheating.

For instance, according to various news reports, a St. Paul, Minnesota Iraqi immigrant and market owner, Khaffak Ansari, was sentenced this week to serve 41 months in federal prison for food stamp fraud.  According to reports, Ansari was also ordered to pay $2.4 million in restitution.

Food stamp recipients are generally required to use their government-issued debit cards to purchase food, but sometimes, with a wink and a nod from cheating store owners, they purchase alcohol or cigarettes, or trade their debt card credits for cash.

In Ansari's case, the government claimed that he cheated the government food stamp program, (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or "SNAP"), out of $2.5 million by trading cash for food stamp benefits for which the government then reimbursed him.

As a former federal prosecutor, I sometimes prosecuted fraud cases like this one.  I also sometimes saw the same problem occur which apparently happened in this Minnesota case.  Specifically, sometimes when the government agents make such cases, they estimate the amount of fraud, but they don't always have clear cut proof to back up their estimates.

Yes, times are tough.  But here's hoping that the government will do a better job of cracking down on the cheaters, so that there will be something left to help the honest folks.  Don't you agree?

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