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Quincy storeowner sentenced to 2-plus years prison for EBT fraud

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  September 13, 2013 02:55 PM

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A Quincy storeowner accused of allowing fraudulent use of EBT cards and allowing unlawful use of food stamps has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail after pleading guilty to the charges on Sept. 12.

Pat Lu, 49, from Quincy, changed his plea to guilty in Norfolk Superior Court on Thursday, admitting to larceny over $250, procurement fraud, and access devise fraud.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman sentenced Lu to two and a half years at the House of Correction, with 10 years of probation to serve upon completion of the sentence. Lu has also been ordered to pay $285,000 in restitution. Lu has forfeited $60,000 that was seized from his bank account during the investigation, which will be put toward the restitution amount.

“This defendant unlawfully exchanged food stamps for cash, defrauding taxpayers for his own personal profit,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley in a release. “We will continue to actively and aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases to hold accountable those who undermine the integrity of a system intended to assist those in need.”

Coakley went on to thank federal, state, and local partners in prosecution of the crime.

The investigation into the alleged fraudulent use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits began in Nov. 2011, after Quincy Police Department referred the allegations to the Attorney General.

State Police assigned to the Attorney General, in conjunction with federal agents and Quincy Police, subsequently conducted a search of Lotto Luck, otherwise known as Pat’s Mini Mart, located in Quincy.

Lu was arrested in April 2012 in connection with the alleged criminal scheme. He was indicted on July 2.

Police said that the convenience store, which primarily sold cigarettes, beverages, and candy to customers, was allowing customers to trade SNAP benefits for cash.

Lu was allegedly charging customers for the service, entering in fraudulent information on a dedicated EBT terminal for double the money he would give back to the EBT card customer.

According to the Attorney General, Lu also made an illegal profit allowing customers to use SNAP benefits to purchase cigarettes.

“In the months before his arrest, Pat’s Mini Mart was transacting about $70,000 per month in mostly fraudulent SNAP sales,” a release from the Attorney General said. “It is estimated that Lu’s cut each month resulted in roughly $30,000. Between October 2010 and April 2012, Pat’s Mini Mart processed approximately $800,000 worth of fraudulent SNAP transactions.”

The Attorney Generalalso prosecuted a Medford couple in connection with EBT fraud.

The couple pleaded guilty in August, and has been ordered to pay more than $161,000 in restitution.

In October 2012, a Waltham convenience store manager was also indicted in a similar but separate scheme for more than $34,000 in fraudulent transactions. The Attorney General is still prosecuting that case.

According to government officials, the investigations are only the beginning.

“[Department of Transitional Assistance] recently signed an agreement with the [United States Department of Agriculture] that allows us to work with local law enforcement to investigate and pursue more SNAP fraud and abuse cases like this one, said DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan. “We are working with the Attorney General and law enforcement across the Commonwealth to hold retailers accountable and ensure that taxpayer resources are being used as intended to help low-income residents meet their basic needs.”

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