WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2014 – Lawmakers looking to stop waste, fraud and abuse at USDA will find plenty of cases – from food stamps to farm loans - highlighted by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) in its most recent six-month review.
Among OIG’s recent accomplishments: investigations leading to 727 arrests, 339 convictions, and $142.8 million in recoveries and restitutions.
The 74-page report, issued the day before Thanksgiving, provides an overview of OIG activity from April 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2014.
As the report notes, almost 60 percent of OIG’s investigative resources are dedicated to preventing fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including trafficking of SNAP benefits—the illegal exchange of benefits for cash. In this reporting period, the OIG’s SNAP investigations led to 271 convictions and $44.9 million in recoveries and restitutions.
Most of the cases involved grocers or convenience store owners who were caught exchanging SNAP benefits for cash or other ineligible items. But the report indicates there is no shortage of criminal creativity when it comes to the SNAP program.
For example, the report describes many other cases, including a Texas Health and Human Services Commission Clerk sentenced to prison for creating EBT cards for herself and friends, the Montana woman who fraudulently claimed a child was hers in order to receive SNAP and other federal benefits, and the Washington State woman who received SNAP benefits despite generating substantial business income and living in a house valued at over $1 million.
And the scams are certainly not limited to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. From farm loans to rural housing and even food safety inspection, OIG helped identify several other forms of criminal activity, including:
A Minnesota farmer provided false information to FSA in order to receive loans totaling $221,524, but then he illegally sold the cattle that secured the loans. In U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, he pled guilty to conversion of mortgaged property, received 36 months of probation, and, in May 2014, was ordered to pay restitution totaling $164,081, according to the OIG.
In July 2014, in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, an employee of a small city in Arkansas was sentenced to 36 months of supervised release and ordered to pay $44,532 in restitution, according to the OIG. From 2001 through 2012, the city employee underreported her income on 12 Rural Rental Housing tenant certifications that were submitted to USDA’s Rural Development, resulting in her receiving housing subsidies to which she was not entitled.
From January 2007 through June 2010, an Indiana daycare owner and her husband submitted false claims for reimbursement under the Child and Adult Care Food Program for meals and snacks provided to children who were certified as being in attendance, but who were in fact absent. They also submitted false claims to the State of Indiana for reimbursements under the Child Care Development Fund, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Indiana. They were convicted and sentenced to 42 and 32 months in prison, respectively, followed by 36 months of supervised release, and were jointly ordered to pay $3.3 million in restitution.
For a copy of the full report, click here:
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