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Two Plead Guilty, Sentenced in Food Stamp Fraud Cases

The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) announced today that two Louisiana residents have been sentenced after pleading guilty to illegally obtaining thousands of dollars in food stamp assistance benefits by concealing household income and providing false application information.

Tara Johnson, a 39-year-old Avondale woman, received a deferred sentence on November 17 in the 24th Judicial District Court with two years of supervised probation. Ms. Johnson was ordered to make full restitution in the amount of $11,353 to DSS and other court costs and fines as a special condition of her probation.

According to DSS, Johnson concealed the income of her husband and made false statements regarding her household composition. The income of her husband should have been considered in determining the household's eligibility for assistance between March 2005 and December 2007.

Alma Gibson, a 57-year-old Junction City woman, was sentenced on November 18 in the 3rd Judicial District Court to three years hard labor, suspended and placed on three years of supervised probation on condition that she pay a $800 fine, court costs and make full restitution in the amount of $2,773 to DSS.

According to DSS, Gibson applied for and received Food Stamp benefits for herself and her husband and concealed household income. Gibson was not eligible for the food stamp benefits she received from April 2007 through January 2008.

"As always, we will continue to thoroughly investigate cases of suspected fraud and abuse within our public assistance programs," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "These funds are intended to provide vital assistance to support eligible families and children who are truly in need. When we discover abuse within this system, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law and make a full recovery of the funds that are obtained illegally."

DSS' Fraud and Recovery Section worked with Assistant District Attorney George Wallace, who prosecuted the Johnson case for District Attorney Paul Connick, Jr.'s office and Assistant District Attorneys Bruce Hampton and John Sheehan, who handled the Gibson case for District Attorney Robert W. Levy.

Nichols said that all DSS benefit recipients should report any changes in their circumstances in a timely manner.

Individuals are encouraged to report cases of suspected fraud in the Food Stamp Program, Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program, the Child Care Assistance Program, or the Kinship Care Program by calling the DSS toll-free hot-line at 1-800-256-3150 or by visiting the Web site at
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