Owner Of Convenience Store Sentenced For Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
ALICIA A.G. LIMTIACO, United States Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, announced that defendant KUN SUP SONG, age 57, was sentenced yesterday by Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood in the District Court of Guam, to serve five years of probation with conditions to include eight months of home confinement, and to pay $170,021 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) Food and Nutrition Service. Also, Judge Tydingco-Gatewood ordered a $70,000 money judgment of forfeiture; and the forfeiture of approximately $38,000 and a Toyota 4Runner involved in the fraud which had been seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. SONG owned and operated Sky Mart, a small convenience store in Yigo. He pleaded guilty on March 27, 2014 to unauthorized use of food stamp benefits.
SONG’s store participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), previously known as the Food Stamp Program. Under SNAP, authorized recipients are issued a certain amount of benefits each month, which they may use to purchase eligible food items. SNAP recipients receive their benefits in the form of a credit on their personal electronic benefit transfer (“EBT”) card. SNAP benefits may not be used to purchase ineligible items, and cannot be redeemed for cash, loans, or items sold on credit.
U.S. Attorney Limtiaco states "Opportunistic store owners who take advantage of our low-income population, by adding interest for items bought on credit, unlawfully take monies that food stamp card holders could have used on food. Food stamp card holders cannot be discriminated against by charging them interest. Retailers who do not follow SNAP regulations by concealing they are selling items on credit, or redeeming food stamp cards for cash or loans, will not be tolerated and are subject to criminal prosecution."
From January 1, 2011 to August 4, 2013, the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud and fraudulently obtain money in excess of $170,000 from the USDA. The defendant used his business to redeem SNAP benefits in exchange for extending credit to SNAP recipients, and payment on their credit accounts with Sky Mart. The defendant also redeemed SNAP benefits for ineligible purchases made by customers. As part of the scheme, the defendant engaged in fictional and illegal transactions with SNAP recipients that purported to be for eligible food items.
Through the hard work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and USDA Office of Inspector General's Office, in August 2013, law enforcement were able to seize a portion of the proceeds of the fraud and a vehicle which helped facilitate the fraud.
U.S. Attorney Limtiaco stated, “The Court’s forfeiture order effectively results in taking the profit out of this food stamp fraud. The defendant's scheme to defraud involved the SNAP program, which is designed to supplement the income of eligible members of the community and ensure families can afford the groceries they need. When opportunistic retailers defraud the system, limited tax dollars are diverted from their intended use.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and USDA Office of Inspector General. Assistants U.S. Attorney Marivic David and Belinda Alcantara prosecuted the case.