Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty To Facilitating $6 Million Food Stamp Fraud In New York
Earlier today, Fowzi Naji Tareb pled guilty at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, to defrauding the United States Department of Agriculture in connection with its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program. Tareb was arrested after providing numerous retail businesses in the New York area with the machinery to accept SNAP benefits even though they were not authorized to do so.
The guilty plea was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William Squires, Special Agent-in-Charge, Northeastern Region, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.
The federal government, through the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), administers the SNAP program. SNAP utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low income households, affording such households the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food purchasing ability.
In New York, individuals who receive SNAP benefits no longer redeem their benefits by using paper food stamp coupons, but rather redeem them electronically through the use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which operates much like ATM cards. The EBT cards may be used by recipients to purchase eligible food items at retail food stores that are authorized by FNS to participate in SNAP and have EBT terminals located in the stores. As a purchase is made, the retailer runs the EBT card through the terminal, and the amount of the purchase is deducted from the recipient’s card. The purchase amount is then electronically credited to the retail food store owner’s bank account.
SNAP benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible food items. Items such as beer, cigarettes, paper goods, and soaps are not eligible for purchase. SNAP benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances and may not lawfully be used to pay off credit accounts. SNAP benefits may be accepted only by retailers authorized to participate in SNAP by FNS.
Tareb used his position as an agent at Century Payments, a third-party vendor and distributor of EBT terminals, to provide EBT terminals capable of processing SNAP benefits and authorization codes to more than 25 retailers that were not authorized by FNS to accept SNAP benefits. In doing so, Tareb facilitated more than $6 million in unauthorized SNAP transactions and enabled the unlawful exchange of SNAP benefits for cash.
In announcing the guilty plea, Mr. Capers extended his grateful appreciation to the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.
Today’s guilty plea proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold. When sentenced, Tareb faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as forfeiture and a fine.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Saritha Komatireddy.
FOWZI NAJI TAREB
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-038