Monroe store owner sentenced to 46 months in prison for SNAP/WIC benefits fraud
More than $5 million taken in scheme
MONROE, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Monroe grocery store owner was sentenced Monday to 46 months in prison for a conspiracy to provide cash and ineligible items to SNAP and WIC recipients in exchange for their benefits.
Allen Woods, 60, of Monroe, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert G. James on one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of theft of government property. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $5,048,305.60 restitution. According to evidence presented at the April 2, 2015 guilty plea, Woods operated two businesses illegally at the same location on Old Sterlington Road in Monroe from December 2010 until March 2014. After his other business, Big Al’s grocery store located on Sherrouse Street in Monroe, was permanently disqualified from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in March of 2010, he opened Honey’s Grocery Store with another Monroe resident in 2010. The store was approved to participate in the SNAP program in December of 2010. As the owner of Honey’s, Woods and others permitted SNAP and WIC recipients to exchange their benefits for cash and other ineligible items.
After Honey’s closed its operations in August 2012, Woods and Marshall Brown opened Brown’s Grocery Store in the same location in September of 2012. Brown’s name was used to qualify the business as a SNAP retailer. Woods, Brown and others allowed SNAP benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items such as alcohol and tobacco from September 2012 until March 2014. Woods, Brown and others also exchanged cash for SNAP benefits and fraudulently acquired at least $5 million from illegally trafficking SNAP and WIC benefits while operating Honey’s and Brown’s grocery stores.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the USDA are actively working on behalf of American taxpayers to protect the federal investment in the SNAP programs to make sure the program is targeted towards those families who need it most,” Finley stated. “We will aggressively act to control SNAP fraud by using purchase data to identify suspicious transaction patterns, conducting undercover investigations, collaborating with other investigative agencies and prosecuting offenders.”
Brown was sentenced on July 7, 2015 to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release on the conspiracy count. He was also ordered to pay $876,501.40 in restitution.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl M. Campbell prosecuted the case.