McKeesport Fish Store Manager Defrauded Food Stamp Program
PITTSBURGH - A McKeesport store manager pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of theft of government property, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Nichole Bires, 36, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Bires was the manager at H&H Fish Market, a small retail food store in McKeesport. In October 2009, H&H began participating in the USDA's food stamp program. As a condition of participation in the food stamp program, the owners and employees of H&H were required to comply with all rules and regulations of the program and were aware that program rules prohibited the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or ineligible items. Despite this knowledge, on multiple occasions, Bires exchanged customers’ food stamp benefits for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving the customers only 50 cents on the dollar for food stamp benefits.
Judge Bissoon scheduled sentencing for Aug. 26, 2014, at 10 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court continued the defendant’s bond.
Assistant United States Attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Bires.