Picayune resident pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Picayune woman pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and reportedly has been ordered to pay back what she has defrauded from the state.

According to a Mississippi Department of Human Services press release, Cynthia M. Scott was arrested by Pearl River County’s Sheriff’s Department with assistance from the MDHS Office of Fraud Investigations.

Scott was ordered to pay restitution totaling $1,332 after she pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud on May 6, the release states.

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MDHS Executive Director Donald R. Taylor said in a phone interview Monday that while he is not familiar with Scott’s case, typically guilty parties are required to pay back what they have taken.

For a period of two years, Scott will be disqualified from the food stamp program. Taylor said after that time she can reapply in the same manner as the rest of the population.

“This arrest is part of the MDHS’s continued efforts to rid the state of those who wish to misuse and abuse taxpayer dollars,” Taylor said in the release. “It is imperative that we continue to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every dollar misspent, misused or stolen is one dollar less available to Mississippians in need.”

Between $480 and $500 million is spent each year on food stamps in Mississippi, where about 182,882 households benefit, Taylor said. In March of this year he said Mississippi paid out $40.3 million to food stamp beneficiaries.

In contrast, less than 5,000 adults receive welfare benefits in the state of Mississippi. The aim is to move dependent families into a state of independence.

“You can not be free and dependent concurrently. The only way you’ll ever be truly free is if you’re financially free,” Taylor said.