It’s tragic when people abuse the privileges extended to them by engaging in criminal activities. In fact, it is more than tragic, it’s an outrage and calls for just the sort of aggressive prosecution and punishment that we’ve just witnessed.
The food stamp program has been riddled with fraud. What began as an effort to combat hunger and malnutrition among the poor has turned into an opportunity for criminals to milk the system and convert a social service benefit program into a personal enrichment scheme.
Mohammed Shafiq, who lives in Baltimore, just had his program of food stamp fraud brought to an end with a conviction and a sentence to four years in prison followed by three years of post-prison supervision. In addition, he was ordered to make payment in the amount of $3.7 million.
“Shafiq was the latest defendant to be sentenced in a series of prosecutions of 14 retailers in the Baltimore area.
“A federal grand jury indicted the retailers in August 2016 for food stamp and wire fraud.
“The 14 retailers stole a total of $16 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture by illegally exchanging food stamps for cash, according to the indictment.”
What these people are doing here is exchanging food stamp benefits for cash, a crime. The law is that food stamp benefits are to be used only by the person to whom they were issued and only to purchase food from a list of approved products. Selling them to someone else for cash to be used for whatever other purposes, is illegal.
“Multiple stores across the country have been cited for millions of dollars in food stamp fraud.
“Investigators found more than $20 million worth of food stamp fraud at retailers in Florida, and 140 stores in Chicago were cited for food stamp fraud.”
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This can be a big business as those who facilitate these illicit transactions take a cut of the proceeds for their part in the crime. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to think of what the food stamp recipient who now has cash instead of food stamp benefits might choose to use that cash for.
The purchase of drugs as well as alcohol to feed an addition come to mind.
This is another example of a federal government program that might have been established with good intentions gone bad. If the government is going to continue to attempt to provide some help for the poor, this is a program that needs both a thorough review as well as more of the aggressive prosecution as we have just seen here.