Your tax dollars:
For new readers, this is one of my side interests—food stamp scams by immigrant store owners and employees. This isn’t small potatos fraud but fraud that costs the US taxpayers millions each year.
This is the first scam I’ve reported from NJ, and it may be the first for immigrants that appear to be from India. Most of the scams I’ve reported previously have been those perpetrated by Muslim immigrants.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The owner and two employees of a Westville convenience store pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding the federal food stamp program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
Mehal Mothon, 48, of Berlin, admitted illegally debiting more than $280,000 in cash at his Citgo Food Mart, 1010 Delsea Dr., using the electronic cards now employed to provide food assistance.
Mothon, who has owned the store since June 2006, is charged with conspiring to embezzle from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Mothon taught employees Lakhwinder Singh, 42, of Cherry Hill, and Palwinder Singh, 30, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, how to work the scam. The two, who are cousins, also pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to embezzle, which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. All three were arrested on April 1.
In the scheme, a customer would ask an employee to swipe his food stamp account card in return for cash. The employee would retain about half of the amount as a fee.
The crime is known as “trafficking” among USDA investigators. It is illegal to use the government-issued cards to collect cash. Investigators say they have uncovered similar illegal operations at two other South Jersey markets this year.
Employees at two Camden markets also were arrested this year for defrauding the USDA of a total of nearly $800,000 in similar food-stamp card operations.
Use our search function for “food stamp scams” and you will see the many posts I’ve written on the subject previously. In my most recent post on the topic, prior to this one, you will find some additional background on this growing problem.