SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Three suspects were convicted for fraudulently acquiring and trafficking over $8 million in government assistance benefits, according to a Department of Justice news release.
The defendants conspired against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Women Infant and Children Program by offering cash to recipients in exchange for their benefits.
According to evidence, the defendants ran a front in Decatur, Ga. in order to buy the food stamp benefits and WIC vouchers from people in need of government assistance. They offered 10 to 60 cents per dollar and profited from the difference.
"SNAP and WIC are food programs set up to help those who need help. These defendants scammed federal food programs and swindled American taxpayers. Let this case serve as notice to any would-be fraudster that if you exchange food stamps and WIC vouchers for cash, you can expect your next meal to be served from the chow-line at a federal prison," said United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver.
A federal jury found Rashella Reed and Derrick Robinson, both 41 from Riverdale, and Tory Hardwick, 21 from Chattanooga, Tenn., guilty for their involvement in the $8 million fraud conspiracy against the government assistance programs.
Reed, Robinson, and Hardwick owned and operated the Decatur store, known as "The Baby Spot," which was one of 13 storefronts involved in offering cash for vouchers and food stamp benefits, and laundering the proceeds.
The scheme included storefronts in Savannah, Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, and Columbus, which claimed to be grocery stores. The investigation led to the prosecution of 16 total defendants. The other 13 alleged conspirators pleaded guilty.
Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge of the USDA-OIG said, "... The American taxpayer expects that the tax dollars used to fund such programs will be used for the intended purposes of the programs. The office of Inspector General will continue its diligence in working with its law enforcement partners to pursue prosecution of individuals such as those convicted in this investigation to ensure the integrity of Agriculture programs."
First Coast News