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Massachusetts Mini-mart owner skimmed SNAP Program

Window Sticker


Once upon a time, when food stamps were actual paper funny money, it was relatively easy to find someone who would give you cash for your food stamps so you could buy cigarettes, booze or even diapers. Of course you would lose 25-50% of the value on the transaction, but hey, that was the price of doing business.

The other common “scam” was more or less legal. If you lived in an urban area and you needed a small amount of cash, for a pack of cigs for instance, you took your food stamps and went from store to store, buying a pack of gum and getting hard cash for change. You did this until you had enough change for what you needed.

Massachusetts EBT card

Then the food stamp program went electronic, to prevent this type of abuse. Now food stamp benefits, called SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are loaded into an EBT card (short for Electronic Benefits Transfer) that is restricted to purchase only eligible food. There is no cash involved, no ability to use the card for non-food purchases, and the benefits don’t get lost in the mail.

Pat Lu at his arraignment

Well, one inspired mini-mart operator in Quincy, Massachusetts figured out how to scam the system. Pat Lu, 48, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and fraud after police raided his mini-mart and said he was personally skimming $30,000 per month from the food-stamp debit card system. Bail was set at $100,000.

Lu was allegedly the brains behind the fraud that netted $700,000 in the past year and a half.

Police said customers would come into Lu’s store with their EBT cards. Lu would swipe the card, process a phony sale for the value on the card, give the customer 50 cents on the dollar in cash, and pocket the rest.

“The word was on the street, so to speak, that you could come to this store and cash in an EBT card,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told the Patriot-Ledger.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said there were 31 arrests in Boston on Thursday, though police refused to disclose the locations. Another 21 people have been charged with redeeming their food stamp benefits fraudulently.



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One Response to Massachusetts Mini-mart owner skimmed SNAP Program

  1. Jennifer

    April 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Lucky to not need that anymore but I had lots of people ask to buy them for me. Sure it was tempting because I was homeless and needed to afford places to stay. The cash assistance was impossible to put a roof over my head we lived in a garage about 1 year. I am still waiting for housing 5 years later. Even though I don’t qualify for medicaid, food, or cash assistance anymore I still cannot afford housing. I only received $450 to feed 3 children, my husband, and I in California. We always ran out mid-month and survived on rice, cereal, beans, and whatever fruit we could pick off the neighbor’s trees. I know people who sold stamps to pay rent, not buy cigarettes since most cannot afford those. Funny I don’t know many people on assistance who smoke or party either but I keep hearing they exist. Thankfully I’m off help but I feel bad for those who are sinking that won’t get any help because of those who are looting the system.