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Document and Benefit Fraud

Pennsylvania woman pleads guilty to defrauding food stamp program

PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania woman pleaded guilty Monday to theft of government property following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the FBI.

Nichole Bires, 36, of McKeesport, the manager at H&H Fish market, a small local food store, pleaded guilty to exchanging customers' food stamp benefits for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving the customers only 50 cents on the dollar for food stamp benefits.

According to court documents, in October 2009, H&H began participating in the USDA's food stamp program. As a condition of participation in the program, the owners and employees of H&H were required to comply with all rules and regulations of the program and were aware that program rules prohibited the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or ineligible items.

Bires faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both. She is scheduled to be sentenced August 26.