Not every federal crime in Georgia involves violence. Allegations of white-collar crimes can also be made, with significant penalties if the accused is convicted.
Fifty-four people have been charged in an alleged fraud scheme involving food stamps and Georgia’s Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program vouchers. According to the federal indictment, the alleged participants would go to low-income areas and convince individuals to exchange their benefits for cash instead of food. In addition, grocery stores were reportedly opened up in furtherance of the scheme, in order to purchase WIC and food stamp benefits for cash. After paying cash for the benefits, the accused individuals would then allegedly redeem the benefits at one of the aforementioned grocery stores at a value greater than what they paid for them. Of the 54 defendants, 34 also allegedly sold more than $1000 worth of their own personal food stamp and WIC benefits in exchange for cash. It is alleged that the value of the WIC benefits and food stamps involved was reportedly $18 million.
The 54 accused individuals were each charged with money laundering conspiracy, and each could face a fine of up to $500,000 and a 20-year prison sentence. They were also charged with mail and wire fraud conspiracy and could face an additional $250,000 fine along with an additional 20-year prison sentence. The 34 individuals who are accused of selling their personal WIC and food stamp benefits could face a $250,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.
It is important in situations like this to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It is the prosecution’s heavy burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. For example, when it comes to fraud, the prosecution must prove that the accused intentionally and knowingly deceived or mislead another individual into giving money to the accused based on false information that the other individual relied on to his or her detriment.
When an individual is charged with a federal crime, they can face a much steeper penalty than they would face if the crime were a misdemeanor. That is why it is important for people accused of a federal crime to make sure they mount a strong defense with the help of a professional.
Source: Valdosta Today, “FIFTY-FOUR DEFENDANTS CHARGED IN $18 MILLION WIC AND FOOD STAMP FRAUD CONSPIRACY,” June 12, 2014