Massachusetts Cracking Down on Convenience Store Fraud

The Attorney General for Massachusetts has had it with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud, also known as food stamp fraud. In fact, Martha Coakley is behind the effort to severely punish convenience stores caught accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card funds for items such as cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets. (Now this IS exciting!) The Boston Herald likened her solution to the death penalty for convenience stores that have been caught profiting from welfare funds spent on state-regulated products. (Go Martha, GO!!!)

This push comes at a time when the owner of a Quincy, Mass., convenience store, who is accused of scamming the state and federal government out of $700,000 in an EBT card scheme, is scheduled for his next appearance. (If the AG gets her way, it looks like the hub for food stamp fraud is about to run out of luck.) The alleged scam involved customers, who travelled from Boston, Braintree, Weymouth and even Maiden, pretending to purchase $200 in groceries, but instead reportedly received $100 in cash while the store would pocket the other $100.

Another high profile case involves a couple who lied about their income to receive $161,000 in food stamps, health insurance and disability benefits. In spite of the husband’s $80,000 a year job with healthcare benefits, the two fraudsters were able to collect the payments over a six-year period. When confronted by investigators, they provided a fake rental agreement. (Oh, we were just kidding.) The couple, who was sentenced to five years of probation, also is required to pay more than $161,000 in restitution.

A Massachusetts state representative filed a bill earlier this year to require the state to conduct identity checks using national databases to ensure that the state is not being scammed. (This is long overdue. Trust, but verify.) Unfortunately, the bill was defeated.

At least the Attorney General is taking a firm stance on convenience store EBT fraud. Perhaps this will get the public engaged in helping to prevent the loss of desperately needed benefits and taxpayer funds to criminals, who want to profit off of the underprivileged.

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