Former Guthrie Convenience Store Owner Pays $65,000 to Settle Allegations of False Claims for Trafficking in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – ATCH, LLC d/b/a G-MART and ALI ASGHAR KHAN have paid $65,000 to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
The SNAP program was established to provide food to low-income individuals through approved retail food stores. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (ODHS) determines whether individuals are eligible to receive benefits. Owners of retail stores apply for USDA authorization to accept SNAP benefits as payment for eligible food items, and the applicants certify they understand that trading cash or ineligible items for food stamp benefits violates the program regulations. Since February of 2008, ODHS has given electronic benefit transfer cards (a debit-type card known as Access Oklahoma cards) to SNAP recipients instead of paper food stamps.
ATCH, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company, formerly owned a retail convenience store named G-Mart in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Khan is the owner of ATCH and operated G-Mart. Khan was a resident of Guthrie and currently resides in McKinney, Texas. ATCH was an authorized SNAP retailer from May 20, 2009, until February 18, 2015. As an authorized retailer, ATCH was allowed to accept SNAP benefits from eligible recipients as payment for eligible food items. SNAP benefits cannot be exchanged for cash or ineligible items.
The United States contends that from March 1, 2011, through March 31, 2013, ATCH and Khan submitted claims for SNAP benefits to the United States that were false or fraudulent because the Defendants trafficked in SNAP benefits. More specifically, it was alleged that ATCH and Khan represented that claims for SNAP benefits submitted to the United States were in exchange for qualified food products when in fact they exchanged SNAP benefits for cash and ineligible items.
On June 20, 2016, the United States filed an action against ATCH and Khan in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma captioned United States v. ATCH, LLC d/b/a G-Mart and Ali Asghar Khan, CIV-16-683-F. In order to resolve the allegations brought by the United States, ATCH and Khan paid $65,000. In reaching this settlement, ATCH and Khan did not admit liability and the government did not make any concessions regarding the legitimacy of the claims. The agreement allows the parties to avoid the delay, expense, inconvenience, and uncertainty involved in litigating the case.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew P. Anderson and Ronald R. Gallegos.