Glendale business raided as part of food stamp fraud case - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Glendale business raided as part of $2.3 million dollar food stamp fraud case

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

SNAP benefits are Arizona's version of food stamps; they're only supposed to be used to buy food.

Investigators say; some people were selling their SNAP cards to the owner of  the African-Caribbean market in Glendale for cash.

In turn, the store processed the cards as food purchases and collected reimbursement money from the government.

This store allegedly collected more than 2-point-3 million dollars before being caught.

A multi-agency task force wrapped up a nearly 4-year undercover operation raiding the Glendale market.

Bernard and Monica Le-Uh own the store. They could only watch as police seized their assets as part of a million dollar food stamp fraud investigation.

"It's bitter in that yes, there are individuals that work diligently to defraud the system, but it's sweet in that we were able to catch them," said DES security director Clarence Carter.

Officials say customers would exchange their SNAP cards for cash for a fee.

For example the owner would allegedly pay 70-bucks in cash for a 100-dollar SNAP card and then process the card as a food purchase billing the government 100-bucks.

Officials say this scheme went on for years with regular, repeat customers.

"Every one of that 2.3 million was a dollar that was intended to feed a needy family, and it was diverted from that endeavor so the taxpayers intentions were thwarted here," said Carter.

Investigators say the food stamp fraud scheme was part of the store owners regular business and he was picky about who he'd exchange cash for snap cards with but the owners attorney says his client has no idea what this investigation is all about.

"He's not aware of any fraud, he did not commit any fraud, and if he is charged with any crime he intends to prove himself not guilty and will be exonerated," said attorney Sabinus Megwa.

Megwa declined to comment whether the store would accept SNAP cards as payment.

Investigators say the owners knew exactly what they were doing, and will soon face charges, including fraud, money laundering, and computer tampering.

At least 33 people who receive snap benefits are also under investigation for taking advantage of public benefits and selling their snap cards for cash.

The store owners have not been formally arrested. Final charges will be determined by a state grand jury and the Arizona Attorney General's office.

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