U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
September 19, 2013
10th Defendant Charged with Allegedly Participating in Food Stamp Fraud Conspiracies
Superseding indictment charges convenience store employee with
participating in conspiracies to defraud the food stamp program, lying to a federal agent
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Mashhod Afzal, 25, of North Providence, an employee of the Stop & Go convenience store in Providence, one of five convenience stores previously identified in court records as locations where store owners and employees were allegedly participating in conspiracies to defraud the food stamp program, was named in a federal superseding indictment returned by a grand jury on Wednesday which charges him with conspiracy, food stamp fraud and lying to a federal agent, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
On September 5, 2013, United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha announced the findings to date of an ongoing two-year investigation which uncovered more than $3 million dollars of alleged fraud of the food stamp program in Rhode Island. At the time, United States Attorney Neronha announced criminal charges had been filed in federal court against nine Providence convenience store owners and employees.
It is alleged in court records that a pattern of conspiracies and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits abuse was revealed when federal law enforcement undercover investigators visited area convenience stores; examined thousands of documents, bank records and tax filings; and reviewed information and evidence seized during the execution of court authorized search warrants at several businesses on April 1, 2013.
It is alleged in court documents that store owners and/or employees allowed SNAP benefit recipients to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to exchange their SNAP benefits for cash, a violation of the program’s laws and regulations. It is alleged that in return, the defendants added a surcharge to the recipients’ withdrawal of SNAP benefits, usually an amount equal to that of the amount of cash benefit received by the recipient. SNAP benefit funds are transferred electronically directly to accounts managed by the retailer.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The cases are being prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Providence by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert and Richard B. Myrus.
The investigation is being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service - Retailer Investigations Branch; Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation; and the Rhode Island State Police
To assist the media and the public, a glossary of federal judicial terms and procedures is available at http://www.justice.gov/usao/justice101/