Food Stamp Fraud close to 20 million dollars in South Florida.
The 12 are accused of selling and trading food stamps for cash, prosecutors said Monday. Selling food stamps is illegal.
The store owners, and several employees, are also accused of accepting federal payments for illegal cash transactions that involved no purchase of food, however did involve the use of food stamps.
Food stamp benefits, also known as SNAP in South Florida, are provided by the use of a debit card to low income families and individuals.
The food stamp fraud in Broward and Miami-Dade counties worked by sliding recipients debit cards (SNAP Cards) to make it look like the purchase of food was involved. Instead the establishments gave them cash at a less percentage and kept the surplus for themselves.
For example, the card would be charged $20 in food, however the clerk would give cash to the card holder in the amount of $15 and keep $5 for themselves or the store. The card owners would then claim full reimbursement from the government.
If convicted, the 12 defendants could face punishments of between 5 and 20 years in federal prison. All cases are still pending.
Karen Citizen-Wilcox, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, said federal investigators will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.
In this instance, eight small convenience stores in south Florida committed a staggering amount of fraud in a relatively short amount of time … The storeowners who allegedly orchestrated this trafficking scheme pocketed millions in “fees” which they charged for converting food assistance benefits into cash,” she said.