KANSAS CITY, MO (STL.News) – A Kansas City, Missouri, woman was sentenced in federal court today for a fraud scheme in which she used stolen identity information to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, then sold the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to others.
Eibony Bowers, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays to six years and two months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Bowers to pay $51,685 in restitution.
On Nov. 27, 2018, Bowers pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, two counts of misusing a Social Security number, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Bowers began receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for herself and her four children in 2014. SNAP benefits assist low-income individuals in purchasing groceries to feed themselves and their families. SNAP recipients receive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards preloaded with approved benefits, and can then utilize the EBT cards to purchase food.
Bowers admitted that she submitted 11 additional applications for SNAP benefits under the names of other persons from March to December 2016. Nine of those applications used the personal identity information (including fraudulent copies of driver’s licenses and Social Security cards) of actual persons without their consent. Two of those applications used the personal identity information of fictitious individuals. Each application included five to seven additional household members. During those nine months, she collected a total of $51,685 in SNAP benefits.
Bowers frequently communicated with state officials though three fax accounts she opened and operated through j2 Cloud Services. Based on the fraudulent information she provided to the Department of Social Services, the agency approved SNAP benefits for all of the applications. After approving each application, the Department of Social Services mailed an EBT card to addresses Bowers provided.
Bowers then sold the EBT cards with the SNAP benefits to other individuals. Buyers paid 50 cents on the dollar for the benefits preloaded on the cards, then returned them after making their purchases.
According to court documents, Bowers was submitting one fraudulent application each month from March to August 2016, then began submitting four a month in September 2016. Her fraud scheme was stopped when law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on her hotel room on Dec. 1, 2016. During the execution of the search warrant, officers found her cell phone, a tablet, paperwork with various names and Social Security numbers, receipts with transactions linked to various EBT cards, credit cards, six EBT cards, and multiple Social Security cards.