Government seizes expensive Ferrari in food stamp fraud case

Ferrari illustration 
By: Ryan Lee Hall 

Several people were busted for living the high life on food stamp fraud.

Federal investigators discovered two owners of a grocery store, who trafficked over $1 million in food stamps and seized four luxury cars, including a Ferrari, from one of them, the agency of the Department of Agriculture surveillance said this week.

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, the owner of two grocery stores was ordered to pay more than $1.7 million in restitution and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison after trading food stamps for cash and other assets, Department inspector general said in a report.

Investigators seized a Ferrari, a Porsche, a BMW and a Mercedes-Benz. Two bank accounts were also seized in the case, according to the report.

The food stamp program formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps the poor buy food.

In Waco, Texas, a federal judge ordered a grocery store owner to pay $1.3 million in restitution after exchanging food stamps for cash, alcohol and cigarettes. The owner was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Some of the funds generated were spent for playing video poker machines in the store, the inspector general said.

The Department of Agriculture has been criticized by Republicans in Congress for not doing more to stop fraud. The program must be renewed by Congress this year and faces complaints that its $76 billion cost is too high.

A Republican proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives calls to reduce the program by 5 percent as part of radical budget cuts.

The Agriculture Department said illegal activity was reduced to 1 percent of the cost of the program, down from 4 percent 15 years ago. The department permanently disqualified this year 1382 stores for food stamp trafficking and fined 772 stores for violations.