Hartford Grocery Store Owner Charged With Food Stamp Fraud
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven has returned an indictment charging SALIH KAYA, 53, of West Hartford, with one count of food stamp fraud. KAYA is the owner and operator of Green Apple Market, located at 264 Farmington Avenue in Hartford.
The indictment was returned on June 24, 2014, and KAYA was arrested yesterday. Following his arrest, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith in Hartford and was released on a $25,000 bond.
The federal food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”), is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) 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 Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) card. 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.
According to the indictment and statements made in court, KAYA has owned Green Apple Market since it opened on July 1, 2008. Between July 2011 and May 2014, it is alleged that KAYA illegally exchanged food stamps for cash and other ineligible items with customers at the store. The FNS estimates that a reasonable sales figure for the store, given the size, amenities and location of the store, should be no more than $60,000 per year. During this approximately three-year period, sales for the store totaled approximately $2.8 million.
If convicted of the charge, KAYA faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and a 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 the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Slater.
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