MERIDEN STORE OWNER PLEADS
GUILTY TO FEDERAL FOOD STAMP FRAUD CHARGE
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that SERAFETTIN BUYUKSOY, 59, of Meriden, pleaded guilty today before United States Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis in New Haven to one count of food stamp fraud.
The federal Food Stamp Program, which is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”), is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households to provide them with the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power. SNAP recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an EBT card, which is similar to an ATM card. SNAP benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible items. Items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, paper goods and soaps are not eligible for purchase with Food Stamp benefits, and it is a violation of the rules and regulations governing the food stamp program to allow benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items. SNAP benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances. The program is designed so that the total amount of each purchase is electronically transferred to the retailer’s designated bank account.
According to court documents and statements made in court, BUYUKSOY owned J’s Corner Store, located at 160 West Main Street in Meriden. In pleading guilty, BUYUKSOY admitted that he illegally redeemed SNAP benefits at J’s Corner Store in exchange for cash, typically at a discounted rate of approximately 50 to 70 percent of the full value of the benefits.
The investigation of this matter included transactions that were conducted by an undercover compliance officer and were recorded, and extensive video surveillance. During a three-hour period on June 4, 2012, 48 customers entered J’s and 36 EBT transactions totaling $1,406.35 were conducted. Of the 48 customers who entered the store, two exited each with one small plastic bag, one exited with two small plastic bags, one exited with one soda and one exited with one soda and two packs of cigarettes. The remaining customers exited with no observable merchandise.
BUYUKSOY is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on March 12, 2013, at which time BUYUKSOY faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. BUYUKSOY also has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $216,680.12.
BUYUKSOY was arrested on a federal criminal complaint on August 2, 2012. He has been released on bond since September 20, 2012.
This matter is being investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, with the assistance of the State of Connecticut’s Department of Social Services. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Felice M. Duffy.
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