Pittsford Man Sentenced In Million Dollar Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
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ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Irving Feldman, 62, of Pittsford, NY, who was convicted of food stamp fraud, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay $729,630 in restitution by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick, who handled the case, stated that the defendant owned Upstate Fish, Inc., at 826 Joseph Avenue in Rochester, NY. Feldman was authorized to accept and redeem food stamps as the owner of Upstate Fish, Inc. Food stamp benefits are issued by the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and are distributed to recipients through the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) cards. When purchasing certain eligible food items, the beneficiary provides the EBT card through an EBT terminal at the authorized retailer. This electronic transfer of benefits is initiated at the retailer’s terminal by deducting benefits from the beneficiary’s account and crediting the amount through an electronic transfer directly from the United States Treasury Department to the retailer’s designated bank account. A retailer is prohibited from exchanging cash for food stamps.
Between January 2010 and October 2015, the defendant illegally purchased food stamp benefits for less than half their full value for cash from eligible beneficiaries. Feldman engaged in approximately $1,227,063 of illegitimate transactions.
In addition, the defendant directed beneficiaries to purchase fish at other fish stores using their EBT card. The beneficiaries would then bring the fish to the defendant at Upstate Fish, Inc. and Feldman would provide cash to the beneficiaries in amounts less than the cost to purchase the fish. The loss amount from this additional scheme was approximately $202,620.
“The schemes concocted by defendant—real-life fish stories—resulted not only in nutrition assistance being withheld from low-income individuals but also led to significant sums of money being fraudulently diverted from the needy to defendant,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “I’d like to commend our federal, state, and local partners for their excellent cooperation and assistance in helping us to catch this defendant and successfully prosecute him in federal court.”
“This corner fish market was a front for the owner’s brazen seven-figure criminal scheme in which he took advantage of society’s most financially vulnerable, as well as our critical welfare system, for his own personal greed,” said New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott. “I will continue to work closely with my law enforcement partners to put a stop to corrupt business owners illegally profiting from vital government programs.”
The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, under the direction Special Agent-in-Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins; the Rochester Police Department, Economic Crimes Division, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli; the Monroe County Department of Social Services, under the direction of Corinda Crossdale; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; and the New York State, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.