The Trump administration has done its best throughout the year to keep people from relying too much on welfare such as food stamps, but it also works hard to combat criminals who commit fraud with the benefits for financial gain.
The food stamp program is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and federal investigators with the agency are most often the ones who catch those engaged in fraudulent activities.
Sometimes, these investigations can occur at the state level because state agencies are responsible for administering welfare programs such as food stamps.
Investigators often uncover millions, sometimes billions, of dollars worth of food stamp fraud, mostly from people who run convenience stores in low-income areas where many customers receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
A January 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that at least $1 billion in food stamp benefits had been trafficked each year in the U.S.
To put in perspective how many millions of dollars the federal government has had to recover through food stamp fraud cases, here are the nine biggest takedowns of food stamp fraud of 2019:
1. Florida Business Owner Found Guilty of Multimillion-Dollar Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
A Miami jury in April found a Florida business owner guilty of conducting a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme in which he exchanged bribes and other favors with daycare centers to secure catering contracts.
2. Six Ohio Residents Plead Guilty to $8.5 Million Food Stamp Fraud
Six Ohio residents pleaded guilty in June to running an $8.5 million food stamp fraud scheme through a local food delivery business. An additional person accused of being involved in the scheme pleaded not guilty.
3. NJ Man Gets 3 Years for $3.2 Million Food Stamp Fraud
A judge sentenced a New Jersey man and former Connecticut supermarket employee to three years in prison for his role in a $3.2 million food stamp fraud scheme. As part of his sentencing, he also agreed to repay the government $1.5 million. The ex-employee admitted to investigators in June that he ran a $3 million food stamp fraud operation in which he charged double for items that were not allowed to be purchased with food stamp benefits. He also told investigators that he allowed SNAP recipients to trade their benefits for cash at half price and ran the scheme with three other employees at the store.
4. Ohio Butcher Shop Owners Plead Guilty to $3.4 Million Food Stamp Fraud
A jury in a federal court in Dayton, Ohio, found the owners of an Ohio butcher shop guilty as charged in June on 25 counts of food stamp fraud totaling $3.4 million. The couple was found guilty of carrying out a scheme through which they would trade cash for food stamp benefits handed out through SNAP between April 2010 and May 2018.
5. Former South Dakota Official to Fork over $750,000 for Fudging SNAP Data
Although she was not accused of food stamp fraud in the traditional sense, the former leader of South Dakota’s food stamp program was ordered to cough up $750,000 in July because she allegedly faked SNAP quality control data so she could benefit financially.
6. NJ Store Manager Pleads Guilty to $3.49 Million Food Stamp Fraud
The manager of a Newark, New Jersey, grocery store pleaded guilty in September to a $3.49 million food stamp fraud scheme in which he illegally traded benefits for cash.
7. Newark Store Owner Sentenced to 37 Months for $750,000 Food Stamp Fraud
A judge sentenced the owner of a Newark, New Jersey, grocery store in November to 37 months in prison for running a $750,000 food stamp fraud benefit scheme. The store owner admitted in July to committing food stamp fraud scheme over three years while trying to hide his involvement in the business. The man admitted in court that he orchestrated the food stamp fraud scheme between September 2013 and September 2016 in which he would let those receiving food stamps trade their benefits for cash while he redeemed a portion of those benefits for himself.
8. Ohio Business Owner Who Committed $8.5 Million Food Stamp Fraud Gets 14 Months in Prison
An Ohio judge sentenced a business owner who committed $8.5 million worth of food stamp fraud to 14 months in prison in December. She was also required to repay the federal government $639,779 as part of her sentencing.
9. Delaware Store Owner Gets Prison for $1.7 Million Food Stamp Fraud
A former Delaware store owner was sentenced to a 14-month prison term starting at the beginning of this year for carrying out a $1.7 million food stamp fraud scheme. The man was also ordered to pay back the $1.7 million he stole from the federal government.