Lackawanna store owner sentenced for food stamp fraud
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Tofeek Albanna, 37, of Lackawanna, N.Y., who was convicted of food stamp fraud, was sentenced to 15 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara. The defendant was also ordered to pay $73,400 in restitution to the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), previously known as the Food Stamp Program.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert C. Moscati and John E. Rogowski, who handled the prosecution of this case, stated that Albanna owned and operated LA Fashions on Holland Avenue in Lackawanna. Albanna primarily stocked clothing items along with a few food items in the store. The SNAP program requires that those receiving benefits purchase certain approved food items. Despite selling mostly clothing items, between February 2009 and April 2010, the defendant redeemed over $100,000 in SNAP benefits.
A lengthy investigation by state and federal law enforcement revealed that Albanna routinely sold clothing items to customers in exchange for SNAP benefits. In addition, the defendant paid cash, for a significant premium, for SNAP credits. The investigation, which utilized undercover officers who purchased clothing items with SNAP benefits, determined that the defendant fraudulently redeemed $73,400 in SNAP benefits.The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Special Agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian P. Boetig, and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Michael Cerretto.