Danville restaurant owner pleads guilty to wire fraud, food stamp fraud

Bobby Lee James, the owner of Seafood & More in Danville, Virginia, pleaded guilty Wednesday, in U.S. District Court in Roanoke to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by exchanging cash for SNAP benefits, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced on Jan. 27.

James, 69, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of food stamp fraud. At sentencing, James faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

“Societal safety net programs such as SNAP exist to provide vital resources for those in our communities in need, not to line the pockets of fraudsters,” Bubar said. “When individuals defraud these programs, this United States Attorney’s Office, and our state and local partners, will hold them accountable.”        

According to court documents, from October 2010 to July 2018, SNAP redemptions for Seafood and More exceeded the state average of all other seafood specialty class stores in Virginia by more than $2,465,555.

Following an investigation by law enforcement, James admitted that he, and others who worked at Seafood and More, redeemed SNAP benefits in exchange for cash between 2010 and 2018. James also admitted that he directed his employees to redeem SNAP benefits for cash during the same time period and that he knew what he was doing was wrong. In total, Seafood and More caused approximately $1,835,767 in loses to the SNAP program. 

Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, the United States Secret Service, and the Danville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Charlene R. Day is prosecuting the case for the United States. 

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