Lake Charles man sentenced for food stamp fraud

Lafayette, LA (KPLC) - A Lake Charles man will serve prison time and will pay over $1.2 million in restitution for food stamp and wire fraud, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley.

Vincent Edward DaPrince, aka "Vincent Briggs," 46, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Lafayette to 51 months in prison per count, to run concurrently, and three years of supervised release per count.

According to Finley, DaPrince pleaded guilty on April 19, 2012, to one count of food stamp fraud and one count of wire fraud.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik in connection with the theft of over $1 million in food stamp benefits, Finley said.

Haik ordered DaPrince to serve 50 hours of community service for the first 12 months of supervised release and to pay $1,289,513.87 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Finley said DaPrince was authorized to participate as a retailer in the Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Program on June 23, 2008, and began operating a mobile food service business from a van, "Da Store/Dr. Restaurant," in the Lake Charles area.

Federal authorities said the investigation revealed that from Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 16, 2010, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, would approach DaPrince's mobile convenience store in order to "sell" their SNAP benefits to DaPrince.

According to Finley, DaPrince would swipe the SNAP recipients' Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, and then would provide the recipients with 60 percent of the cash proceeds. Finley said he would then deposit the full amount through wire transfers into his bank account.

Finley said the federal probe revealed that DaPrince caused more than $1 million in USDA funds to be deposited. During the investigation, the U.S. Secret Service and the USDA engaged in 11 undercover transactions at DaStore/Dr. Restaurant, during which DaPrince used electronic transactions to acquire money from SNAP EBT "Louisiana Purchase" cards in exchange for cash.

Finley said agents seized $343,511.65 in U.S. currency from accounts associated with DaPrince's scheme to defraud. She said, additionally, agents seized a 1998 Chevrolet van used in the mobile food service business, a 2006 Cherokee travel trailer purchased with funds associated with the scheme, and $2,295 located in the 1998 Chevrolet van.

On Aug. 15, 2012, Haik signed a Final Order of Forfeiture, ordering the property to be forfeited to the government as proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the defendant's violations, and property used or intended to be used to commit or facilitate the defendant's violations.

Finley stated, "This case was centered in greed. Mr. DaPrince's scheme was devised to circumvent a program designed to assist those in need. His actions hurt the program, the community and ultimately the taxpayers. Our office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who think they can cheat the system and steal from federal programs. The Judge got it right when he said that the public needs to be protected from this defendant. "

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.