U.S. Attorney’s Office Settles Food Stamp Fraud Cases With 4 Mini Mart Stores for Over $100,000
St. Thomas, USVI – United States Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe announced today that the United States has entered into civil settlement agreements with four Virgin Islands convenience stores to resolve allegations that the stores unlawfully traded food stamp benefits for cash. The settlement requires the four stores to pay the United States in excess of $100,000, and be permanently debarred from participating in the Food Stamp Program.
“Food stamp fraud hurts children and the elderly who rely on these monthly allowances for their food,” U.S. Attorney Sharpe said. “When a substantial portion of these benefits are used to pay the retailers instead of feed these vulnerable individuals, the entire community suffers.”
The four convenience stores involved in the settlements are: Lower Love Service Station in Frederiksted on St. Croix; and Broadway Food Mart in the Fort Mylner Shopping Center, In and Out Mini Mart in Frydendahl, and Max Mart in Nisky Center on St. Thomas.
The Food Stamp Program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is administered in the Virgin Islands by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services. The program provides funds to low-income individuals to allow them to purchase more nutritious foods. Eligible individuals receive an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which operates like a debit card. Recipients use the EBT card to purchase approved food items from participating retailers.
U.S. Attorney Sharpe said that the four settlement agreements are part of a broader effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address food stamp fraud in the territory. “We are putting retailers who trade food stamp benefits for cash on notice that federal authorities are on their trail,” U.S. Attorney Sharpe said. “Retailers who engage in food stamp fraud are subject to both civil monetary penalties and criminal penalties, including jail time.”
USDA is moving aggressively to control food stamp trafficking by using SNAP purchase data to identify suspicious transaction patterns, conducting undercover investigations, and collaborating with other investigative agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement.
SNAP retailers and recipients are reminded that only eligible food items can be exchanged for EBT benefits, and that it is illegal to exchange EBT benefits for cash or non-food items such as tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets.
For more information about the SNAP program or to report SNAP fraud, please go to www.fns.usda.gov. Fraud complaints may also be filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (340) 774-5757.