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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, September 21, 2014

Investigation Into $3.6 Million In Food Stamp Fraud Concluded; Eleven Individuals Convicted In Federal Court,





Six Retailers Barred from Participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –Eleven individuals have been convicted in federal court and sentenced, and six Providence area convenience stores have been disqualified from participating in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), concluding a more than two-year federal investigation that uncovered $3.6 million dollars in food stamp fraud by numerous convenience store owners and employees. Sentences imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi include court orders that the defendants pay full restitution of stolen government funds to the food stamp program.

In September 2013, United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service - Retailer Investigations Branch, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Rhode Island State Police announced that an investigation revealed that the criminally charged store owners and/or their employees allowed SNAP benefit recipients to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to exchange their SNAP benefits for cash, a violation of the program’s laws and regulations. In return, the defendants added a surcharge to the recipients’ withdrawal of SNAP benefits, usually an amount equal to that of the amount of cash benefit received by the recipient.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented “The sad reality is that there are many hard-working Rhode Island residents who, despite their efforts, have difficulty meeting their family’s basic needs.  The SNAP program is designed to help meet one of those basic needs – hunger.  Accordingly, every dime from the SNAP program ought to go to a person – in particular a child – who would otherwise go hungry.  Yet SNAP fraud, like other federal program fraud, is widespread. There are those, like the defendants here, who see in this worthy and necessary program an opportunity to line their own pockets.  When they do so, they reduce the available pool of benefits.  Put plainly, they steal food from the mouths of children.  Equally plain is what we need to do in response: continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.”    

USDA Office of Inspector General, Special Agent-in-Charge William G. Squires Jr. stated, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was created to provide food and nutrition to those who truly need this assistance. Those who are involved in fraud and abuse of SNAP and other USDA programs will be aggressively pursued by our office. Our joint investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service and the Rhode Island State Police has brought to justice several individuals who sought to profit from the SNAP program through illegal schemes. The USDA Office of Inspector General will continue to dedicate resources and work with our state and local law enforcement partners in order to protect the integrity of these programs and to prosecute those who commit fraud.”

On Friday, , owner of Stop & Go convenience store in Providence, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison to be followed by three years supervised release, and ordered to pay the government restitution in the amount of $400,000. Rasheed pleaded guilty in February 2014 to conspiring to defraud the food stamp program, food stamp fraud and money laundering; , the manager of Stop & Go, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and seven counts of food stamp fraud. Mehta was sentenced in April 2014 to time served in federal prison, 3 years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $400,000; , an employee of Stop & Go, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to one count each of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and making false statements. He was sentenced in March 2014 to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $1,402.

, owner of the Corner Store and the Regency Mart in Providence, was sentenced on September 5, 2014, to 36 months in federal prison to be followed by three years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution to the food stamp program in the amount of $1,927,755. He pleaded guilty in February 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, three counts of food stamp fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering; , manager of Corner Store, was sentenced in March 2014 to 5 years probation and ordered to pay restitution to the food stamp program in the amount of $1,634,755. He pleaded guilty in December 2013 to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud; , an employee of Regency Mart, pleaded guilty in February 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and four counts each of food stamp fraud and wire fraud. He was sentenced on September 5, 2014, to 3 years probation and ordered to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $293,000; and , an employee of Regency Mart, pleaded guilty in February 2014 to one count of food stamp fraud. He was sentenced in May 2014 to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution to the food stamp program in the amount of $2,662.88.

On May 22, 2014, owner of Express Food Mart in Warwick, was sentenced to 5 years probation, the first 12 months to be served in home detention, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $580,000. Waqif Qadir’s wife was sentenced to 3 years probation and ordered to pay $580,000 restitution. Waqif and Asra Qadir pleaded guilty in February 2014 to conspiring to defraud the food stamp program.

, owner of the Dugout convenience store in Providence, was sentenced in December 2013 to 18 months in federal prison to be followed by 3 years supervised release – the first 6 months to be served in home confinement - and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $398,000 to the food stamp program. Lopez pleaded guilty on October 4, 2013, to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, money laundering and filing a false tax return.

On December 19, 2013, , owner of Cristina’s Market in Providence, was sentenced to12 months and 1 day in federal prison to be followed by 3 years supervised release – the first 8 months to be served in home confinement - and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $399,000 to the food stamp program. Ramirez pleaded guilty on October 4, 2013, to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and money laundering.

As a result of the findings of the investigation, convenience store owners charged in this matter are disqualified by the USDA from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“These convictions send a strong message to others who would try to manipulate the SNAP program for their own personal financial gain,” stated William Offord, Special Agent, IRS-Criminal Investigation.  “There are serious consequences to these types of financial crimes, including potential prison time and being branded a convicted felon.”

Colonel Steven G. O’DonnellSuperintendent of the Rhode Island State Police added, “The food stamp program is in place to assist those who genuinely are in need of assistance. As is clearly evident in this case, those who make the decision to take advantage of the system for no reason other than greed will face consequences. I commend the United States Attorney, members of the Rhode Island State Police and federal agents for rooting out these individuals and continuing to collaborate to ensure the integrity of the food stamp program.”

Criminal cases in this matter were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert and Richard B. Myrus. Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie J. Kane represented the government in U.S. District Court in appeals brought by retailers disqualified from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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Updated June 22, 2015