News and Press Releases

CONVENIENCE STORE MANAGER SENTENCED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2012

Will Serve 27 Months In Prison for Food Stamp Scheme

Greensboro, North Carolina – United States Attorney Ripley Rand announced today that Kongkeo Keomoungkhoun, also known as Kim Stukes, age 45, was sentenced today in federal court for Food Stamp Fraud, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, 2024(b) and (c), and Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1957.

United States District Judge William L. Osteen, Jr., sentenced Keomoungkhoun to 27 months imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release. Keomoungkhoun was also ordered to pay $1,000,000 in restitution to U.S. Food and Nutrition Services, the agency responsible for oversight of the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps).

Keomoungkhoun was employed as the manager of B&J Food Mart in Thomasville, North Carolina. The investigation revealed that Keomoungkhoun purchased SNAP benefits for cash and allowed the purchase of non-food items such as cigarettes using EBT cards. Individual customers would buy cigarettes or other low-priced items and Keomoungkhoun would ring up the transactions and return cash to the customers. Keomoungkhoun fraudulently redeemed SNAP benefits in a manner that allowed her to retain about 40 cents of each benefit dollar and fraudulently caused FNIS, Inc. (a contractor handling SNAP electronic transactions) to wire thousands of dollars to a B&J Food Mart bank account from which she then made withdrawals for her personal use.

SNAP provides benefits to low-income households to help them purchase food in order to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. The program is an “automatic stabilizer,” meaning that the number of its beneficiaries and amount of spending increase automatically during tough economic times. In fiscal year 2011, total federal expenditures on SNAP—$78 billion— and participation in the program (measured as the number of participants and as a share of the U.S. population) were the highest they have ever been. In an average month during that year, nearly 45 million people (or one in seven U.S. residents) received SNAP benefits. The number of people receiving SNAP benefits increased by almost 50 percent between fiscal years 2001 and 2005 and even more rapidly (by 70 percent) beginning in fiscal year 2007.

“The defendant’s actions have thwarted the aim of SNAP at a time of its highest use in the United States and of its highest cost to the Nation,” said United States Attorney Rand. “Not only were funds diverted to the defendant, she enabled misuse of SNAP benefit cards by SNAP beneficiaries. As a collateral consequence of the fraud, some of those households have permanently lost SNAP eligibility, and as the investigation continues, more people may permanently lose SNAP eligibility.”

The case was investigated by agents of the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anand P. Ramaswamy.

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