Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, June 11, 2014
The FBI announced Tuesday in Savannah, Georgia that eighty-eight people have been charged in “one of the largest federal food program frauds ever prosecuted.” Fifty-four of the defendants were charged with conspiring to open “purported grocery stores” specifically for the purpose of defrauding the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) and Food Stamp program. After the fake stores were “approved as WIC and Food Stamp vendors,” many of the fifty-four defendants went through neighborhoods soliciting WIC and Food Stamp participants to exchange government benefits for cash instead of food in clear violation of the law. The remaining thirty-four defendants were benefit recipients who sold over $1,000 of their own or their minor children’s benefits for a fraction of their worth. In all, over $18 million was laundered in this way in at least nine cities in Georgia.
The list of those charged includes some colorful nicknames, like Grand Hustle, Big Bo, Da Man, Rah Rah, and even The Money Wizard. The fifty-four defendants were charged with mail and wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, each of which carry a maximum of twenty years in prison plus fines of $250,000 and $500,000 respectively. The thirty-four defendants charged with selling their benefits could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The government is attempting to seize “$20 million and various bank accounts and assets, including a 2008 Land Rover and a 2008 Mercedes Benz.”
[Editor’s Note: The full FBI press release can be found here.]