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Press Release

Waterbury Grocery Store Worker Charged with Food Stamp Fraud Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut

John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that, on August 7, 2018, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging MUHAMMAD SHAHBAZ, 49, a citizen of Pakistan residing in Jersey City, New Jersey, with one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and two counts of unlawful use of food stamp benefits.

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.

As alleged in the indictment, SHAHBAZ was employed at WB Trade Fair Grocery, LLC, a grocery and convenience store located 43 Willow Street in Waterbury.  From November 2014 until June 2016, SHAHBAZ and others illegally allowed customers to redeem their food stamp benefits for cash and other ineligible items, including cigarettes, pipes, hookahs and a circular saw.

SHAHBAZ was arrested on a federal criminal complaint on July 31, 2017.  He is released on a $50,000 bond.

U.S. Attorney Durham 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 is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anastasia King and Neeraj Patel.

Updated August 9, 2018