It seems that food stamp fraud is a popular way to steal money from the government these days. (That being said, fraud is usually considered popular to criminals only until they are caught and prosecuted.) An article posted on NOLA.com details the methods of quite a few Louisianans who jumped on the fraud bandwagon, only to find themselves convicted for participating in a variety of schemes, which resulted in the loss of more than $116,000 to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The story states that 15 Louisiana residents were ineligible for the SNAP benefits they received. (Go figure.) Their methods of deception included failing to report a spouse, claiming children as household members when they did not live with the applicant, concealing income, hiding employment, providing false employment and wage verification information, under-reporting income and altering check stubs…just to name a few. (Who knew there were so many ways to steal money from the program?)
All 15 residents were found guilty and ordered to pay full restitution to the SNAP program. Other punishment varied per case, but usually included a suspended jail sentence, probation, community service, court costs and fines. One fraudster did receive a sentence of 30 days in jail.
The bandwagon effect is essentially a trend that becomes popular among a group of people. There is no way to know if any of these fraudsters knew each other, but chances are they heard about how to commit food stamp fraud from someone else who had been successful at the deceptive practice. The only ways to stop this fad from spreading are to punish appropriately for the offense and prevent future participation in the government program that is reserved for underprivileged people who rightfully deserve the benefits. (Word-of-mouth usually gets around.)