Grocer Pleads Guilty of Food Stamp Fraud
|Aug, 24, 2011|
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 56, the proprietor of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville, Texas, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as Food Stamp Fraud, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in San Antonio. Rezaei was rearraigned Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2011, before Judge Andrew S. Hanen.
According to the original complaint filed of record in the case and admitted to yesterday by Rezaei, he repeatedly exchanged “Lone Star” card benefits from participants in the “food stamp” program for discounted amounts of cash. Rezaei would then charge the government for the full value of the “Lone Star” card transaction. Documents supporting the complaint established that Rezaei participated in illicit transactions with federal law enforcement agents who were working in an undercover capacity.
“Today's guilty plea is an example of the impact we can have when law enforcement combines their expertise” said Robinette. “We at ICE-HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate these cases and ensure that those who profit by taking advantage of others face justice for their crimes.”
The federal Food Stamp Program was re-named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008. The 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.
The Office of Inspector General for the United Stated Department of Agriculture and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations jointly conducted this investigation.
Rezaei has been in federal custody where he will remain pending sentencing, which is set for Nov. 28, 2011. At sentencing, Rezaei faces a maximum of five years in prison.