Monday, August 12, 2013

Food Stamp Fraud vs. Tax Evasion

Which offense will land you in prison the longest: Income tax evasion, financial fraud, attempted murder, possession of drugs, or lying on a food stamp application?

In Mississippi Stanley Jones failed to disclose on his application for food stamps that someone in his household had been convicted of a drug-related felony since 1996. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison, three years on supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $8,282 (Doesn't his prison term cost the taxpayers more than $8,282 in food stamps?)

No record of this particular Stanley Jones was found on the Mississippi Department of Corrections website or at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, so one can assume that Mister Jones' drug-related felony wasn't all that serious. If he had been imprisoned for trafficking 100 pounds of crack cocaine, Stanley Jones might still be in jail, getting free meals and avoiding the food stamp rap altogether.

Although, prior to 1996, Stanley Jones might have been arrested for possession of one joint of marijuana. And if so, I wonder how much time he spent in jail for that offense in the good State of Mississippi (especially if he were black).

Meanwhile, Lauryn Hill (singer-songwriter) received a measly 3 month jail sentence for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade. ($1 million could have paid for a hell of a lot of food stamps!)

Martha Stewart only got 5 months in prison for conspiracy, obstruction, and making false statements to federal officers after being accused of insider trading.

And Mark Wahlberg (the famous novelist) only got 45 days in jail for attempted murder and assault after knocking an older man unconscious with a large wooden stick. It seems that beating someone almost to death is less onerous than financial fraud, income tax evasion or lying on a food stamp application.

Stanley Jones got a six month prison sentence for fraud in a case brought by the same Justice Department that's now investigating JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. The $8,282 in restitution that Mister Jones must pay most likely represents the entire amount of value "taken" via his "food stamp fraud" --- because States never settle for anything less than every last dollar in these type of cases.

Meanwhile, the SEC's latest target Fabrice Tourre --- the Goldman Sachs exec who joked about selling bad bonds to "widows and orphans" --- will not do a single day in jail for his part in a fraud that caused two banks in Europe to lose over a billion dollars. And Fab's restitution will range from $30,000 to $780,000, depending upon how much judge Katherine Forrest decides to fine him for each of his six counts of civil fraud.

Goldman Sachs has already settled for $550 million for the same case, which is far much less than the total amount of damage they caused, and less than the profits Goldman Sachs made. And nobody went to jail for a single day.

Even Paris Hilton (the trust fund baby) got three days in jail after she violated probation for not attending rehab after being found guilty for speeding and driving without a license.

And Chace Crawford (the actor) spent a few hours in jail after he was found with less than 2 ounces of marijuana while sitting in a parked car.

But Stanley Jones got 6 months of hard time because he was too poor to buy food. Maybe if he had incorporated himself, he could have done what the big banks and pharmaceutical companies always do when they're caught for fraud --- by enjoying "limited liability" and only paying pennies on the dollar for their fraud. And just like the CEOs, Stanley Jones could have also escaped doing any jail time at all.

But by being in prison, at least Stanley Jones is being fed my the taxpayers again...and getting free healthcare too.

Currently at least six federal agencies, including the Justice and Treasury departments, are coordinating a broad probe of online payday lenders that charge enormous interest and fees to low-income borrowers. New York's top financial regulator on Tuesday ordered 35 online payday lenders to stop offering loans that violate state laws. The state also sent letters to 117 banks, asking them to help cut off payday lenders from the global network used by banks to send money and collect payments. Michael Bresnick, the former federal prosecutor who's directing the task force, referred to online payday lenders repeatedly as “mass market fraudsters". (Will any of these banksters go to prison for fraud?)

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