Defendant collected SNAP benefits despite managing lucrative large-scale marijuana grow operation
Date: March 20, 2020
BOSTON – A Clinton man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Worcester to food stamp fraud.
Thomas Laverty pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15, 2020 by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman. Co-defendant, Andrea Laverty, pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on drug and money laundering charges at a date to be determined. Another co-defendant, Charles Laverty, was convicted at trial but has since passed away, and his conviction has been vacated.
Laverty was convicted at trial in January 2020 of drug and money laundering charges arising from his role in a large-scale marijuana grow operation. Laverty received income from this marijuana business, but at the same time was receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP") benefits. Eligibility for SNAP benefits is need-based, and is determined on the basis of a household's income and resources. On pertinent paperwork provided to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (which administers SNAP benefits in Massachusetts), Laverty made material misrepresentations regarding his income and living status. For example, in October 2016, Laverty represented that no one in his household was working, and in April 2017 he certified that there were no changes to his household income. During this time, Laverty was receiving income from the family marijuana business. Laverty also concealed the fact that he was living with his wife, who herself was receiving SNAP benefits but was using a different address than that of her actual residence.
Laverty was charged with the food stamp fraud at the same time he was indicted on drug and money laundering offenses, although the fraud count was severed from the other charges prior to trial. On the drug conspiracy charge, Laverty faces a sentence of between ten years and life in prison, a fine of $8,000,000, and a term of supervised release between 8 years and life.
On the money laundering charges, Laverty faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000. On the food stamp fraud count, Laverty faces up to 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Kristina O'Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations in Boston made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bill Abely and Phil Cheng of Lelling's Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.