Wilkinsburg store operators get 2 years of probation for food stamp fraud

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A brother-sister shopkeeping duo who cheated the food stamp system to the tune of nearly $120,000 will have to pay the money back while on probation with home detention, following their sentencing hearings today.

Stanley Saxton and Nicole Gordon were the first to be sentenced following a U.S. Department of Agriculture crackdown on food stamp abuse.

Saxton, 44, and Gordon, 34, both of Verona, ran the Wilkinsburg store known as Nicky’s Corner. They allowed customers to sell food stamp credits received through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program for roughly 50 cents on the dollar, then obtained government reimbursement for the full amount of the benefit — a violation of the program rules. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

“I know what I did was wrong, and for that I am truly sorry,” said Gordon.

U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill sentenced both shopkeepers to two years of probation including five months of home detention and ordered them to continue to pay back the $119,871 they gained from their illegal acts.

This year, there have been a raft of local food stamp-related criminal cases in federal court in Pittsburgh. U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General Special Agent Grant Friday said they are the result of the opening of an office of his branch in Pittsburgh in 2010.

Food stamps are “one of our main program areas that we investigate,” he said.

Defense attorney Samuel Reich, who represented Saxton and Gordon, said that the new office “sent undercover agents out and they got evidence against a number of stores.”

He added that Nicky’s Corner will continue to operate, though it is now barred from accepting food stamps.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542, or Twitter: @richelord.

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