Trump administration officials have been making efforts throughout the year to keep people from relying on food stamps and other forms of welfare, but they have also made strides in taking down criminals committing food stamp fraud 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 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).
To show how many millions of dollars these criminals have stolen from the federal government in 2018, here are the ten biggest takedowns of food stamp fraud this year.
1. Baltimore Shopkeeper Gets 27 Months in Prison, Owes $1.5M for Food Stamp Fraud
A Baltimore shopkeeper got caught trafficking $1,532,642 in food stamps, prompting a judge to sentence him in January to 27 months in federal prison and three years supervised release. The judge also ordered him to pay back the money he stole to the federal government.
2. Florida Officials Bust Nearly 200 for Food Stamp Fraud in Undercover Investigation
Florida law enforcement officials busted nearly 200 people in March for food stamp fraud while conducting an undercover law enforcement investigation. Detectives say they found up to 390 fraudulent transactions over six months.
3. Detroit Shopkeeper Pleads Guilty to Running $2 Million Food Stamp Fraud
A Detroit shopkeeper pleaded guilty in March to running a $2 million food stamp fraud scheme where he allowed customers receiving SNAP benefits to trade them for cash. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to pay back the $2.3 million he stole through food stamp, Medicaid, and bank fraud.
4. South Carolina Man Sentenced to 27 Months, Owes $1 Million for Food Stamp Fraud
A judge sentenced a South Carolina man to 27 months in prison in March for running a $1 million food stamp racket where he allowed customers to trade their SNAP benefits for cash. The judge also ordered the man to pay back the $1,039,981.75 he stole from the federal government.
5. Investigators Discover $8.4 Million Food Stamp Fraud in Ohio
Federal investigators conducted a search warrant of an Ohio meat delivery business, uncovering $8.4 million in fraudulent SNAP transactions that were conducted at the store between August 2011 and September 2017.
6. Florida Welfare Agency Fires 31 Employees for Food Stamp Fraud
Florida’s welfare agency fired 31 employees in August, accusing them of fraudulently obtaining food stamp benefits set aside for disaster victims. The agency took down the suspected fraudsters working in the agency after conducting an internal investigation.
7. Store Owner Sentenced to Prison, Ordered to Pay $1.7 Million for Food Stamp Fraud
A Pennsylvania store owner got 21 months in prison in September for running a $1.7 million food stamp fraud scheme. As part of his sentence, the judge also ordered him to pay $1.7 million back to the federal government.
8. Former Food Stamp Fraud Investigator to Plead Guilty to Extortion
A former food stamp fraud investigator who committed fraudulent schemes like the ones he was tasked with investigating pleaded guilty in November to extortion charges. Prosecutors say the investigator bilked money from convenience store owners who committed food stamp fraud between 2012 and 2014.
9. Three Arkansas Shopkeepers Plead Guilty to $400,000 Food Stamp Fraud
Three Arkansas shopkeepers pleaded guilty in December to orchestrating a $400,000 food stamp fraud scheme where they used food stamps to purchase items that they would resell in three different convenience stores.
Prosecutors say the multi-faceted scheme allowed food stamp recipients to purchase items at double the price, trade their benefits with store owners for cash, and use their benefits at other stores before giving those items to the owners to resell in their convenience stores.