Former Funeral Home Owner Faces Up To 20 Years In Federal Prison On Food Stamp Benefit Fraud Conviction
DALLAS — A Mansfield, Texas, woman appeared today in federal court this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan and pleaded guilty to one count of food stamp benefit fraud, announced John Parker, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas
Rachel Hardy, 35, faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain to Hardy or loss to the victims, and restitution. Sentencing is set for May 13, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn. Hardy remains on pre-trial release.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Stamp Program is known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC) administers SNAP in Texas.
The investigation began in 2012 when the Southwest Region USDA, Office of the Inspector General, received a referral about an individual who was receiving SNAP benefits who had failed to disclose a change in household composition and income from the ownership of two businesses. That individual was later identified as Hardy.
The investigation revealed that Hardy and her husband, who is the father of her youngest child, were married on February 14, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. On April 8, 2010, Hardy submitted a SNAP benefits application, certifying she was a “single-parent-mother,” with no income, living in a household that consisted only of her children. Hardy’s application was approved, and she began receiving SNAP benefits.
On December 1, 2010, Hardy registered with Tarrant County as the owner operator of a tax refund and estate planning business called “Mighty Dollar Tax,” in Arlington, Texas. From April 8, 2010, through June 5, 2011, Hardy completed and submitted THHSC certifications reporting no income and claiming to live alone with her children.
On February 21, 2011, Hardy purchased a 2006 H2 Hummer for $26,000 and a 2008 Mercedes Benz CL S500 sedan for $41,700; she paid for each with a cashier’s check. At the time she purchased these vehicles, Hardy reported to THHSC that she was an unemployed, single-parent-mother living alone at home with her children.
On April 19, 2011, Hardy registered with Tarrant County as the owner operator of the Johnson Family Mortuary in Fort Worth, Texas. Again, on June 14, 2011, Hardy reported to THHSC that she was an unemployed single-parent-mother living alone at home with her children.
That same day, Hardy went to the Dallas County THHSC office where she completed and submitted a THHSC Application for Assistance Form. In doing so, she certified she was a “single-parent-mother” with no income living in a household that consisted only of her children.
On February 11, 2012, Hardy purchased a 2008 Land Rover Range Rover from Park Place Motors with a $53,000 cashier’s check. A few days later, on February 22, 2012, Hardy again certified to THHSC that she was an unemployed single-parent-mother living at home with her children.
The THHSC re-certifications and interviews revealed Hardy neither claimed a spouse nor any other income provided to her, or to anyone else in the household. Hardy admits that she failed to disclose material facts to THHSC and admits unlawfully receiving SNAP benefits to which she was not entitled.
The THHSC, OIG; USDA, OIG; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, OIG; and U.S. Department of Education, OIG are investigating.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Wiley is in charge of the prosecution.