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U.S. Attorney’s Office – Western District of New York
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Buffalo Man Sentenced For Stealing Thousands Of Dollars In Food Stamps
ROCHESTER, N.Y. U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that David Sobczyk, 43, of Buffalo, NY, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution totaling $82,066. He also forfeited $33,991.41.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick, who handled the case, stated that between May 2015 and April 2017, the defendant conspired with co-conspirator Paul Carroll and others to commit food stamp fraud.
Congress established the Federal Food Stamp Program in 1977 to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In 2008, the program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP program), which uses federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households, helping low-income individuals and families to maintain more nutritious diets by increasing the food purchasing power of eligible households. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the SNAP program through retail food stores or food truck delivery business (FTDB) that have been approved for participation in the SNAP program to sell food in exchange for the SNAP program benefits.
A business that accepts the SNAP program benefits must do so only in connection with retail sales of eligible food products, and must be authorized by FNS as a retail food store or FTDB. According to USDA regulations, most edible items, except for prepared foods, vitamins and medicines, are eligible for purchase with food stamp benefits. Items such as beer, cigarettes, paper goods, soaps and detergents are ineligible for purchase with food stamp benefits. It is also against the SNAP program regulations to allow customers to pay for merchandise on credit with EBT SNAP/food stamps. Federal law specifies that a purchase made utilizing the SNAP program benefits must be tax exempt. Food stamp benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash.
In 1991, co-conspirator Paul Carroll applied to FNS and received authorization to operate a business, Carroll Services, which received the SNAP program benefits. Carroll Services operated a FTDB. In November 2015, the defendant applied to FNS and received authorization to operate a business, Sobczyk Services, which received the SNAP program benefits. Sobczyk Services operated a FTDB.
Contrary to the policies governing the administration of the SNAP program benefits, Sobczyk operated his FTDB as a “for credit” operation, whereby he allowed beneficiaries to purchase items from him “on credit.” He did so by obtaining from the beneficiaries their identifying information, including their EBT card number, PIN number, and social security number. Thereafter, he would cause funds to be deducted from the beneficiaries’ SNAP benefits accounts on the date that the benefits were available on the beneficiaries’ EBT cards.
Paul Carroll provided the defendant with the vehicle to use for his FTDB and was paid by the defendant monthly for the vehicle, knowing that the defendant was operating his FTDB as a “for credit” operation contrary to program policies.
Using the 1-800 number provided by the USDA’s NYS Customer Help line, Sobczyk would direct his employees to manipulate the USDA’s telephonic system in order to identify food stamp beneficiaries’ card numbers in order for the defendant to use the cards to make false claims to FNS in order to deduct food stamp benefits from the beneficiaries.
Paul Carroll was previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins; Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Monroe County Department of Social Services, under the direction of Commissioner Corinda Crossdale; and the New York State Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro