Bridgeport Grocery Store Operators Charged With Food Stamp Fraud
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that KHALID ABOUTAYEB, 45, of Bridgeport, and his sister, JAMILA ABOUTAYEB, 54, of Fairfield, were arrested yesterday on federal food stamp fraud charges.
On May 14, 2014, a grand jury in New Haven returned separate indictments charging KHALID and JAMILA ABOUTAYEB with engaging in food stamp fraud at the M&J Deli Market, a grocery and convenience store they operated at 988 State Street in Bridgeport. Following their arrests, the ABOUTAYEBS appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport. Both defendants are currently detained.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”) is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households to provide them with the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power. SNAP recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, and SNAP benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible items. Items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, paper goods and soaps are not eligible for purchase with Food Stamp benefits, and it is a violation of the rules and regulations governing the food stamp program to allow benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items. SNAP benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances. The program is designed so that the total amount of each purchase is electronically transferred to the retailer’s designated bank account.
The indictment against KHALID ABOUTABYEB alleges that he unlawfully exchanged customers’ food stamp benefits for ineligible items and cash at M&J Deli Market between approximately December 2011 and February 2013. The indictment against JAMILA ABOUTAYEB alleges that she unlawfully exchanged food stamp benefits for ineligible items and cash at the store between approximately June 2013 and March 2014.
According to statements made in court, the investigation has revealed that approximately $285,000 in illegal SNAP benefits were redeemed at the store.
If convicted, KHALID and JAMILA ABOUTAYEB face a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice M. Duffy.
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