Seven South Carolina women have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. They were accused of selling their monthly allotment to a vendor in Rock Hill, SC for cash. All seven entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor fraud and were given thirty day suspended sentences and two years of probation. They can avoid those penalties by repaying every dime they defrauded the Food Stamp Program out of.
The seven women accounted for about twenty thousand of the five million dollars broken down by individual, Jatonica Williams, 31, $5,238 in fraud; Dequitta White, 31, $3,070; Labrecia White, 24, $2,962; Shenisa Davis, 36, $2,549; Victoria Sanders, 25, $2,234; Kimberly Johnson, 28, $2,195 in fraud; and Brooke Rogers, 27, $2,134.
The store owners, on the other hand, did not get off so easily. Three of the store owners involved in the $5 million food stamp scam face five years behind bars and are expected to pay back up to $5 million.
If the store owners agree to testify against the food stamp recipients who used their benefits to receive illegal money and goods in state court, they may be eligible for reduced sentences in federal court.
South Carolina Assistant Attorney General Sam Jones told the Herald that it is a crime if food stamps are used for anything other than non-prepared food and no cash is allowed to be exchanged for food stamp purchases.
Jones, who prosecutes food stamp fraud cases in South Carolina, said this particular instance of food stamp fraud took place between March 2014 to 2016.
He added that the store owners trafficked benefits and exchanged food stamps for cash while the food stamp recipients used their EBT cards to buy prohibited items such as hot food, beer, and cigarettes or accepted cash back.
Food stamp fraud schemes are nothing new in this country.
In May, a Baltimore man who illegally trafficked food stamps received a four-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay back $3.7 million to the U.S. government.
Investigators discovered more than $20 million worth of food stamp fraud at Southwest Florida retailers, and 140 Chicago retailers were cited for food stamp fraud.