Wilkinsburg Convenience Store Owners Conspired to Defraud Food Stamp Program
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The owners of a Wilkinsburg convenience store have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and food stamp fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Nicole Gordon, 34, and Stanley Saxton, 44, siblings and co-owners and operators of Nicky's Corner, located on Montier Street in Wilkinsburg, Pa., each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy before Senior District Judge Maurice B. Cohill, Jr. Gordon and Saxton also executed civil settlement agreements for violations of the False Claims Act, and agreed to pay to the United States the sum of $119,871.
According to information presented to the court, Nicky's Corner participated in the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the food stamp program. Food stamp recipients could purchase eligible food items using food stamp benefit cards at the store. As a condition of participation in the food stamp program, the defendants certified that they would comply with all rules and regulations of the program and were aware that program rules strictly prohibited the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or for ineligible items, such as cigarettes. Despite this knowledge, on multiple occasions, the defendants exchanged food stamp benefits with customers in exchange for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving the customers only 50 cents on the dollar for their food stamp benefits. Gordon and Saxton also permitted customers to use food stamp benefits to pay for ineligible items, such as cigarettes.
Judge Cohill scheduled sentencing for Dec. 4, 2013 at 10 a.m. for Saxton and 11 a.m. for Gordon. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal histories, if any, of the defendants.
Assistant United States Attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office and Assistant United States Attorney Colin Callahan is litigating the case on behalf of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Section of the United States Attorney's Office.
The Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the investigation leading to the guilty pleas in this case.