Worcester Woman Sentenced For $3.6 Million Food Stamp Fraud
BOSTON – A Worcester woman was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Worcester in connection with a $3.6 million food stamp fraud scheme that she operated out of her Worcester convenience store.
Vida Ofori Causey, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman to one year and one day in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $3,512,906 to the government. The court ordered restitution to be determined after forfeiture is completed. In December 2015, Causey pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit SNAP benefits fraud, one count of SNAP fraud, and one count of money laundering.
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides eligible households with government subsidies for certain foodstuffs, and allows holders to exchange their SNAP benefits for food at authorized retail food stores.
Causey was the owner and operator of J&W Aseda Plaza, a convenience store on Main Street in Worcester. From April 2010 to October 2014, Causey conspired with others to commit SNAP fraud by purchasing SNAP benefits from recipients rather than exchanging them for food. Causey purchased the benefits at a discounted value of approximately fifty cents for every SNAP dollar. By so doing, Causey caused the USDA to electronically deposit into a bank account she controlled the full face value of the SNAP benefits fraudulently obtained. To provide customers with cash for the SNAP benefits, Causey used the cash she received from customers wishing to utilize MoneyGram services. In order to cover those transactions, she transferred money from the account where her SNAP funds were electronically deposited into the account she used for her MoneyGram business.
During the course of the four-year conspiracy, Causey defrauded the USDA of approximately $3,638,900 in SNAP funds.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; William G. Squires, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Northeast Region; and Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Dineen Jerrett of Ortiz’s Worcester Branch Office.