FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 10, 2012
FORMER HUNTINGTON CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO FEDERAL FOOD STAMP FRAUD
Federal prosecution permanently shutters crime hub in Huntington’s Fairfield district
*Audio clips included*
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that a former Huntington convenience store owner pleaded guilty to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Abderahamane Eloirzazi, also known as “Abe,” 34, of Huntington, was the owner and operator of the All-In-One convenience store on 9th Avenue in Huntington. The store, once a magnet for crime in Huntington’s Fairfield neighborhood, has been closed down permanently as a result of the prosecution. As part of his plea agreement, Eloirzazi will surrender the property to the City of Huntington.
“The All-In-One store wasn’t just a crooked business, it was a dangerous blight on this city,” said Goodwin. “As I said when we started this prosecution in February, eliminating a criminal stronghold like this store can fundamentally change the character of a neighborhood. By closing it down forever and putting it in city hands, we’ve taken a step toward an even safer Huntington and a brighter future for Fairfield.”
From some time prior to June 2010 and continuing until February 2012, Eloirzazi and co-defendants Stephanie Pauley, 35, and Cynthia Gibson, 40, both of Huntington, conspired together and with other known individuals in an illegal EBT card-swiping scheme that took place at the All-In-One store. Eloirzazi admitted that he fraudulently swiped certain recipients' Mountain State Cards by charging a certain dollar amount against the value of the recipient's card. Eloirzazi further admitted that he then gave the recipients 50 to 65 cents on the dollar in cash and/or ineligible items. It was further a part of the conspiracy that the store’s bank account received by wire transaction the full amount of the fraudulent transactions.
Eloirzazi faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on December 10, 2012 by United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers. He will also owe restitution in the amount of $127,000. Additionally, defendant has agreed to deed the All-In-One store to the City of Huntington.
Stephanie Pauley and Cynthia Gibson both pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud. Pauley and Gibson admitted that they conspired with defendant Eloirzazi in an illegal EBT card-swiping scheme. Pauley and Gibson were clerks at the former All-In-One store at the time. Pauley and Gibson admitted that as a result of the scheme, they each redeemed a portion of approximately $127,000 in SNAP benefits.
Pauley faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she is sentenced this month.
Gibson faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she is sentenced on October 15, 2012.
The investigation was conducted by the Department of Agriculture, the Huntington Police Department, the West Virginia State Police and the Department of Homeland Security. Assistant United States Attorney Erik Goes is in charge of the prosecution.
Click the links below to listen to audio clips from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin regarding today’s guilty plea: