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ANGELA DODGE
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April 27, 2011

GROCER AND EMPLOYEES ARRESTED FOR FOOD STAMP FRAUD

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) – Federal agents have arrested the proprietor and two employees of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville after a federal grand jury indicted the men for food stamp fraud and other charges, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 55,the proprietor of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville, Texas, was arrested Tuesday, April 26, 2011, for fraud under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamp fraud as well as wire fraud, money laundering, money structuring and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Gabriel Garza and Juan David Fernandez, employees of Pariz Dollar Supermarket, were also arrested on Tuesday for food stamp fraud. All three defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Felix Recio this afternoon and have been ordered temporarily detained until their arraignment Friday April 29, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. at which time the issue of bond will be decided. 

“Aggressive prosecution of programmatic fraud is essential to safeguarding the benefits of deserving recipients,” said U.S. Attorney Moreno. “Those who enrich themselves by preying on the less fortunate of our society should expect to be prosecuted.”

According to allegations in the indictment filed under seal on April 12, 2011, and unsealed today following the appearance of the defendants, Sheikh Rezaei repeatedly exchanged Lone Star card benefits from participants in the food stamp program for discounted amounts of cash, then charged the government for the full value of the Lone Star card transaction. All three defendants are accused of conspiring together to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, by engaging in similar illicit transactions with federal law enforcement agents working in an undercover capacity.

The SNAP program allocates federal funds to be administered by the states to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In 1995, the Health and Human Services Commission converted to an electronic benefit transfer system in Cameron County as a means to more effectively deliver SNAP benefits to program participants. Instead of paper food stamps, participants were given electronic benefit transfer cards, known as Lone Star cards. 

Fraud under the SNAP is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, upon conviction, when, as alleged in this case, the benefits exceed a value of $5,000.

The United Stated Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations jointly conducted this investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ana Cano is prosecuting the case.

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