What is being hailed as one of the largest food stamp fraud busts in history, state and federal investigators arrested 54 people, including a husband-and-wife team, Brandon and Kimberly Sapp, and charged them with masterminding a sophisticated and complex scheme to defraud the U.S. government.
The couple set up at least 18 fake grocery stores throughout the state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Macon, Marietta, Lithonia, LaGrange, Stone Mountain, Riverdale and Savannah in predominately black neighborhoods. The scheme involved the alleged illegal purchase of more than $18 million worth of benefits between December 2009 and December 2012.
After the fake stores were set up, the couple along with their crew canvassed low-income and depressed neighborhoods asking food stamp recipients to exchange their food stamps and WIC vouchers for cash. Federal and state authorities opened an investigation that lasted longer than two years because of the scope of the food stamp fraud operation.
Today more than 70 arrests have been made in the investigation. These arrests include 30 people indicted for selling their food stamps and WIC vouchers to the schemers.
“This prosecution is one of the largest federal food program frauds ever brought. The Government alleges that the defendants stole taxpayer-funded benefits intended to feed the most needy families and children in our communities,” said United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver. “Fraudsters beware: the U. S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with our federal and state partners to investigate and prosecute complex financial fraud, especially when it attacks government programs funded by taxpayers of the United States.”
Tarver’s colleagues also chimed in with admonishments to would-be food stamp schemers.
“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals who create businesses for the purpose of specifically defrauding the taxpayer funded WIC and SNAP programs,” said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge, USDA-OIG-Investigations. “It should also serve as a warning to all stores, that participate in the WIC and SNAP programs as vendors, that fraud and trafficking (purchasing those benefits for cash) will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by the USDA-OIG, the U. S. Attorney’s Office, and all of its federal, state, and local partners that have a stake in ensuring that fraud is eliminated from taxpayer funded programs. The USDA-OIG applauds the steadfastness and resolution of the U. S. Attorney’s Office to also prosecute the WIC and EBT benefit recipients who chose to sell their benefits rather than use them for their intended purpose of purchasing nutritious foods for themselves and their eligible children.”
List of Defendants Charged in 54-Defendant Indictment
Brandon Sapp, AKA “B,” 37, Austell, Georgia
Kimberly Sapp, AKA “Kimberly Walker,” AKA “The Money Wizard,” 34, Austell, Georgia