Convenience store owner Vida Ofori Causey out of Worcester, Mass. was charged in federal court Monday after pleading guilty to $3.6 million worth of food stamp fraud.
According to authorities, Causey abused the program between 2010 and 2014. Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is run by local and federal agencies. It is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). She was able to scam the program by buying food stamp benefits from receipts for half the actual value.
“Causey purchased the benefits at a discounted value of approximately fifty cents for every SNAP dollar,” a press release from Department of Justice stated. “By so doing, Causey caused the USDA to electronically deposit into a bank account controlled by her the full face value of the SNAP benefits fraudulently obtained.”
As a result, recipients had cash on hand to buy restricted items. The restricted items could include alcohol, cigarettes and even drugs. The program is supposed to be used to provide food to low-come individuals and families. In total, Causey defrauded the USDA for approximately $3,638,900.
SNAP is the nation’s largest food-assistance program. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014.
The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.
Nevertheless, the size alone has prompted concern among many lawmakers. In response, there have been many different proposals on the federal and local level to help prevent abuse.
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