BUSTED: Scammer Took $250,000 Taxpayer Dollars in Multi-State Welfare Fraud Scheme
“Yes sir, I’m guilty,” Keashia Latriese Davis responded when U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. asked how she wanted to plead to 17 counts of wire fraud in multiple states.
Davis will receive consideration for the guilty plea because it saves the federal government the time and expense of a trial, but as Judge Marshall pointed out, she is eligible for a 20-year sentence along with a fine of $250,000.
“There’s a long ways between zero and 20 years. It’s my decision,” the judge told her.
Davis, represented by a federal public defender, nodded attorney, admitted that she bilked the federal government of $262,691 from April 2015 to May 2016.
Davis used physical addresses listed on the real estate website, Zillow, to apply online for food stamp (SNAP) cards that were then sent to her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Testimony from a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General agent established that a search of Davis’s apartment revealed 17 bags of stolen personal information – names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers and addresses.
Agent Kevin Porter said, “It was the most I’ve ever seen in any location.”
Stolen mail, including a tax refund and a check from a utility company mailed to neighbors at the apartment complex where Davis lived were also recovered during the search.
The haul also garnered what Porter said were “detailed” notebooks used in Davis’s year-long scheme that brought in nearly $300,000.
While the mother of four children ranging from elementary school age to adult admitted to using some of the SNAP benefits to buy food, she also sold the illegally obtained cards for cash to pay her monthly rent, utilities and car payment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, had been alerted by the state of Utah that 75 state SNAP cards were being actively swiped in Arkansas.
The resulting investigation led to Davis who had used the addresses listed on Zillow in online applications in Utah.
The cards would be intercepted at local post offices in Utah and forwarded Davis’s address in Little Rock pursuant to a standard address change form filed by Davis.
While the ingenious plan worked for a short time, Davis now faces decades in prison away from her family, her younger children face an uncertain future and government funds intended to benefit truly needy families were diverted by a criminal scheme.
When Judge Marshall pronounced sentence in September, he may express real regret that Davis didn’t use her intelligence and creativity in a more productive and honest way that would have truly benefited her family.