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Convenience Store Owners, Clerks Charged in Food Stamp Fraud

D.A.: Food stamps were illegally exchanged for cash.

The owners of a Nyack convenience store and five of its clerks have been charged with food stamp fraud, according to Rockland County officials.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said operators of Nyack Food Mart, 4 Waldron Ave., Nyack, are accused of unlawfully paying cash for food stamps. The store, Zugibe said, also allowed individuals to use their electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and other prohibited items.

In the scheme, Zugibe said the store took an illegal cut from the food stamps.

“These defendants exploited a program designed to help our neediest residents. By unlawfully exchanging food stamps for cash, these individuals perpetrated a fraud on the hardworking taxpayers of Rockland County,”  Zugibe said.

The charges cover the period from March 29, 2012, to Tuesday, Jan. 15, with store owners Nissar Ahmed, 59, and Shafaqat Ali, 46, cited in the scheme involving the use of the Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. 

SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Benefits are distributed to low‐income recipients in New York through the use of electronic benefit transfer cards.

Individuals enrolled in the program are only allowed to purchase eligible items with their EBT cards, such as milk, bread and eggs. Recipients are not permitted to purchase items such as alcohol and cigarettes. They are also not allowed to obtain cash from merchants in exchange for SNAP benefits.

Zugibe said that in some instances, the clerks at the store would swipe the customer’s EBT card and enter fraudulent information on a dedicated EBT terminal, indicating that the customer purchased groceries. The clerks are accused of giving cash to the customer for a portion of what was charged to the EBT card account, providing the store with a profit on each fraudulent transaction.

According to the charges, for example, a customer would enter the store and ask the merchant for $60 in cash. The defendants would ring up a fictitious sale of $120 in qualifying groceries, and then pay out $60 in cash to the customer. The store’s account would subsequently be credited with $120 from the customer’s EBT SNAP account, providing the store a $60 profit on the illicit transaction. 

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef praised the work of investigators.

“I want to compliment District Attorney Zugibe and Department of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood’s Special Investigations Unit for their critical work in sending an important message to SNAP store owners, vendors and program participants that they not engage in this type of criminal activity,” Vanderhoef said.

This case was investigated by the Special Investigations Unit of the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Rockland County Department of Social Services and the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Office of Audit and Quality Improvement. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ameenah Karim. 

Those accused in the investigation are variously charged with the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a Class “E” felony, Misuse of Food Stamps, Food Stamp Program Coupons, Authorization Cards or Electronic Access Devices a Class “E” felony, both punishable by up to four years in state prison, and petty larceny, a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. 

Also charged in the investigation are:

Kusum Joshi, 48, of 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Ansar Haniffa, 72, 15 W. Funston Ave, Apt. 209, Spring Valley

Balbir Singh, 62, 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Kavender Joshi, 49, 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Muneer Khan, 28, 121 Grandview Ave., Nanuet

They plus the store owners face a hearing on Jan. 30 in Clarkstown Town Court in New City.

Joe Ciardullo January 16, 2013 at 10:42 PM
How often does this scam go on?
wait did this happen in a real store or an Indian Teepee?
Fred Herring January 17, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Food stamps to buy alcohol and ciggies?! I've never heard of anything like that (not)! These privileged many should be fed crap government cheese and crackers!- then maybe they'd have reason to come off the dole. Ugh!
Fred Herring January 17, 2013 at 04:47 AM
Find a poor neighborhood in NYC... Which is to say: All the time! I can't tell you how many times I witnessed the bodega men charge them for something other than food.

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