Mt. Oliver Grocer Admits Defrauding Food Stamp Program
PITTSBURGH - A Pittsburgh-area grocer pleaded guilty in federal court to fraud charges United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Emile Bizimungu, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of food stamp fraud before Senior United States District Judge Gustave Diamond.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Bizimungu was the owner of Dollar Grocery, a retail food store formerly located on Brownsville Road in Mt. Oliver Borough. The defendant's retail store participated in the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. Food stamp recipients could purchase eligible food items using food stamp benefit cards at the defendant's retail store. As a condition of participation in the Food Stamp Program, Bizimungu certified that he would comply with all rules and regulations of the program and was aware that program rules strictly prohibit the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or ineligible items. Despite this knowledge, on multiple occasions, the defendant exchanged food stamp benefits for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving the customers only .50 cents on the dollar for their food stamp benefits. The defendant also permitted food stamp customers to purchase ineligible items with food stamp benefits and accepted food stamp benefits as payment on credit accounts and loans.
Judge Diamond scheduled sentencing for Aug. 11, 2014 at 10 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 25 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court continued the defendant’s bond.
Assistant United States Attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Bizimungu.