A 33-year-old woman has admitted to defrauding food and nutrition benefit programs out of more than $1.1 million. The woman pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on March 28. Her plea was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan in a March 30 press release. She could be sent to a federal prison for 20 years when she is sentenced on August 1.
SNAP and WIC fraud
The former Swartz Creek resident committed her white-collar crimes between 2017 and 2020 when she operated a convenience store in Flint. According to court papers, she allowed individuals who received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children to purchase prohibited items like tobacco and alcohol. Prosecutors say she charged double the normal price when she allowed these transactions. She has also admitted to allowing individuals to exchange their SNAP and WIC benefits for cash in violation of program rules.
Attempt to flee
The woman was released on bond after being arrested and indicted in March 2022. While out on bond, prosecutors say she purchased a plane ticket with plans to flee the United States. She was taken into custody by U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago while waiting to board her flight. The fraud case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the SNAP and WIC programs.
This woman likely agreed to plead guilty because the evidence against her is compelling and the sentenced she faces is severe. Federal prosecutors may have offered to recommend a lighter sentence to encourage her to plead guilty, but she is still likely to spend longer behind bars than she would have if she had not tried to flee the United States.