Food Stamp Fraud

Democrats in a House agriculture subcommittee lashed out at a retired “millionaire” who applied for and received “food stamps” in an effort to prove that “eligibility” for the government “benefits” in his home state of Minnesota were “too lax and easily exploited.”

Rob Undersander noticed several years back that “income” was the only criterion for receiving benefits from the “Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program” (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

A retired engineer with a seven-figure “nest egg” but no real income, Undersander decided to perform an “experiment” to determine if someone as “well-off” as he and his wife could obtain the “benefits.”

“I’ve got the SNAP form in my hand and I’m thinking of my financial situation, and I said ‘you know, I just can’t believe this. So I went down to the second floor of the Sterns County Courthouse, stood in line a little bit, handed in the application and three weeks later I’m getting food stamps, and a balance on my EBT card.”

Although he was not “invited” to formally testify, Undersander was in attendance at a subcommittee meeting designed to look at “broad-based categorical eligibility” for benefits like SNAP.

Undersander did not “falsify” any portion of his application and everything he did was completely “legal.” He also carefully “tracked and donated” all of the monies he received from the program back into his community tobenefit the needy.”

House Democrats, however, were not happy. “And let me just also say for the record, I think if someone intentionally defrauds the federal government, they ought to go to jail,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

“Mr. Undersander did not break the law, he simply abided by the rules that were in place, so he didn’t defraud anybody,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, Republican from Texas.

“He intentionally defrauded the federal government. That is, in my opinion, breaking the law” McGovern shot back.

McGovern’s office did not respond to requests for comments as to how specifically Undersander “broke a law” or questions as to whether he would refer Undersander to the attention of a U.S. attorney for prosecution.

Republicans have long argued that the loose “eligibility” requirements create an environment in which resources are “diverted” away from the truly needy.

“I’m a flat-out 10th Amendment kind of guy as well, but these are federal resources that we’re talking about and the states should have restrictions on how those resources are deployed, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable that those restrictions make sense. Having an asset test ignored on SNAP is regrettable.” Conaway said in his opening statement.

Being threatened with “prosecution” is not new for whistle-blower Undersander.

“You knew this was wrong and you did it anyway,” a Democratic Minnesota state lawmaker said to Undersander in 2018 as tightening the state “eligibility” rules was under debate. “I find it pretty despicable. … I am just sorry there is no way we can prosecute you.”

Republican staffers said Democrats were holding “hearings” in anticipation of rule changes that could be delivered soon from the White House that might “tighten” some eligibility and distribution elements of the program.

Democrats repeatedly referred to what they described as a war on the poor. “You willfully and maliciously gamed the SNAP,” said subcommittee Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Ohio, addressing Undersander.

“You, an alleged millionaire, used mis-characterizations of your finances to cheat the program. You took benefits meant for the very seniors in Minnesota you served through your volunteer work. And you did this all to continue the right-wing crusade against poor people,” not once mentioning about the “raid” on a Ohio multi-millionaire.

He boasted that his companies developed multi million-dollar properties across the globe, from St. Lucia to Southern California to the Middle East. His sprawling, 8,000-square-foot home in Russell Township, Ohio, complete with horses and in-ground swimming pool, plus multiple expensive sports cars attested to the lifelong success of Ali Pascal Mahvi.

Yet there he was, waiting his turn, a “prince becoming a pauper” asking for food stamps in Geauga County, Ohio. And, he got what he asked for. For himself, his wife, and their three adult children. For two years, the family was handed about $300 a month in government food stamps. They also wanted help to pay their gas and electric bills. And Medicaid. They needed and got Medicaid.

The conservative leaning think tank “Foundation for Government Accountability” produced a video highlighting Undersander’s story. “When I filled out that form, I used an abundance of honesty and caution. I was honestly hoping the application would be denied” Undersander said.

FGA estimates 33 other states are like Minnesota in that they only test “income and not assets” when it comes to SNAP.

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