Rochester Nail Salon Owner Charged With Defrauding The SNAP Program

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Hang T. Lam, 46, of Rochester, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with the unauthorized use, transfer, acquisition, and possession of USDA food stamp benefits. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle P. Rossi, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in April 2018, the Monroe County Department of Social Services (DSS) developed information that Young’s Nails, which is owned and operated by the defendant, was trafficking in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamp benefits for cash, nail services, and other non-food items. Young’s Nails does not sell food and is not authorized to accept SNAP benefits.

Between April 19, 2018, and October 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General conducted five undercover transactions at Young’s Nails using a SNAP Electronic Benefits (SNAP EBT) card. Purchases included nail services such as manicures and pedicures, cigarettes, jewelry, and cash. Lam charged double the cost when a SNAP EBT card was used.

When the undercover purchases were made, the defendant used the Tanhong Du Supermarket on N. Clinton Avenue in Rochester, Ocean Garden Oriental Foods Inc. on S. Clinton Avenue in Rochester, and the Asia Food Market on Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road to process the undercover transactions. All three stores are approved to participate in the SNAP program.

On November 7, 2018, a search warrant was executed at Young’s Nails. Law enforcement officers seized SNAP EBT cards, dozens of handwritten notes containing four digit PIN numbers and various cash amounts, and SNAP EBT receipts from the Asia Food Market and other SNAP authorized stores. As a result, officers identified and interviewed SNAP clients involved in SNAP fraud with LAM at Young’s Nails. Eight of these individuals reported that they exchanged SNAP benefits for cash and nail services.

To date, approximately $26,000 dollars in fraudulent SNAP transactions that have been executed by LAM have been identified.

The defendant made an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman and was released on conditions.

The complaint 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 Acting Welfare Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.