Law Enforcement Crackdown On Food Stamp Fraud
Nine individuals have been charged and six arrested during a two day period on food stamp fraud charges, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Andrew LaFleur, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent-in-Charge Erik Martinez, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue, Director, Michigan State Police andWilliam Hayes, Special Agent- in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), to highlight the district’s continued work in combating fraud against the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) (Food Stamp Program).
Today’s announcement comes at the conclusion of a two-day federal search and arrest warrant operation which targeted numerous retailers in Detroit’s Eastern Market Terminal, and other locations in the city, who the government alleges to have been engaged in the illegal practice of exchanging cash for food stamp benefits (trafficking). The principal scheme alleged in a number of the cases involved individuals, known as “runners”, who would obtain food stamp recipients’ EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer), or Bridge Cards, and take them to the various stores in the Eastern Market Terminal to conduct fraudulent discounting transactions. These transactions totaled millions of dollars during the past year.
The following individuals and Detroit establishments were subjects of the warrants:
Ronnie’s Quality Meats, 1429 Gratiot Avenue;
Embassy Foods, 2478 Riopelle Street;
Ftoni Meat & Produce, 2800 Riopelle Street;
Detroit Wholesale Produce, 2614 Riopelle Street;
Dayton Market, 8002 Dayton Street.
Cheech’s Chicken Company, 1429 Gratiot Avenue. Frank Paul Buonbrisco, resident of Saint Clair Shores, Eric Lamont Owensby, resident of Romulus, and Damon Keith Ownensby, resident of Detroit, , all managers of Cheech’s Chicken Company were arrested on criminal complaints charging them with SNAP Fraud.
Gratiot Produce & Grocery Inc., 1429 Gratiot Avenue. Rassoul Ali Jamil, owner of Gratiot Produce & Grocery, and resident of Dearborn, has been named in a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP Fraud.
Greg’s Pallet Company, 1483 Winder Street. Greg King, resident of Detroit, and owner of Greg’s Pallet Company was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP fraud, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Campus Diner, 5470 Cass Avenue. Anton Vuljaj, resident of Waterford and Owner of Campus Diner, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP Fraud.
Mike’s K&G Deli, 15500 East Warren Avenue. Ghassan Ghazi Shamoon, resident of Livonia and former Manager of Mike’s K&G Deli, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP Fraud.
Dayton Market, 8002 Dayton Street. Waleed Hindo, manager of Dayton Market, resident of Inkster, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP fraud.
Christopher Stanley Jackson, resident of Detroit, and employee of the Eastern Market Terminal, has been named in a criminal complaint charging him with SNAP Fraud.
"Taxpayers in Michigan fund the Food Stamp Program to provide food for the needy, not to create a commodity to be traded for profit," McQuade said. "We will work to ensure that food assistance programs are not abused."
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Andrew LaFleur stated, “SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, and retailers who prey on the poor by illegally purchasing SNAP benefits erode public trust in the program. As we conduct investigations throughout the State of Michigan, we appreciate the support of our Federal and State law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s long-term commitment to prosecuting SNAP fraud.”
“This is another positive step in our ongoing effort to combat food stamp fraud,” stated IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Erick Martinez. “The activities over the past days demonstrate our collective efforts to enforce the law and ensure public trust."
“The Michigan State Police recognize how important the coordination of law enforcement resources are when working with our federal law enforcement partners,” stated Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police. “Bridge Card fraud harms those less fortunate so we are thankful for the support of the USDA and U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing these cases to justice.”
“Taxpayers fund food stamps as a benefit to those who need assistance,” said William Hayes, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit. “When unscrupulous business owners take advantage of these benefits for their own profit, the taxpayer is cheated and the individuals who really need the help also suffer.”
Prosecution is being coordinated by Assistant United States Attorneys Craig Weier, Christopher Varner, Graham Teall, and Stephen Hiyama.