Longtime readers know that following food stamp fraud is a hobby of mine here at RRW. Something is happening because the number of busts seem to be increasing! Should we thank the O-man in the White House? Perhaps!
Also, for critics who think I’m selecting busts of immigrant scammers and skipping over the Bakers, the Smiths and the Jones trafficking in food stamps, I’m not. Easily nine out of ten stories I come across through my alerts involve immigrant-owned or managed stores.
I don’t think all of the cases are isolated, there is some international criminal element involved (some of your scammed money is sent out of the country), but I have no idea what it is, just some guesses.
I had two intriguing cases show up yesterday. Looks like in both cases they are Indian store owners. Hey, Professor Kotkin are these some of your immigrant entrepreneurs moving to middle America?
From The Mercury:
POTTSTOWN — Two people were arrested after police served search warrants at three borough stores in connection with a fraud investigation involving food stamp access cards.
Adbu Aljash, 38, of Pottstown, and Kuldip Kaur, 40, of King of Prussia, were both charged with felony corrupt organization and other related charges, according to court documents.
Kaur worked at the Quick Mart Grocery Store on 55 E. High Street. Customers were able to buy cigarettes, non-food items and could receive cash back on their government-issued ACCESS cards, according to court records.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General had been monitoring Kaur and the store since last August 2012, according to the police report.
During that time, approximately $94,865 worth of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) transactions happened at the store, the police report said.
Undercover agents made five trips to the Quick Mart, the report said.
The officer picked up a few items and during the transaction and then asked for $75 in cash back. Kaur charged $159.70 to the card, then told the undercover agent not to ask anyone else in the store to make those types of transactions, according to the report.
On four subsequent visits, undercover officers asked for cash on the ACCESS card, the report said.
During a trip on Dec. 19, 2012, the officer reported that Kaur told them to “type in what you want” when the officer asked for cash back, according to the report.
When an undercover officer asked Kaur how much he would get if Kaur took $250 off the card, she allegedly told the officer he would receive $125, the report said.
When Kaur was arrested Friday afternoon, she seemed confused but did not resist the police. During the execution of the search warrant, police also found drug paraphernalia.
It’s unclear if Aljash is Indian, his name doesn’t appear to be Indian (his photo is posted at the story in a slide show of the arrests, so have a look).
The transactions that Aljash made were much lower, but he is involved in two schemes using the cards at borough convenience stores, according to police.
Aljash allegedly took part in ACCESS card fraud schemes at a store at 315 E. High St. and a store at 435 N. Charlotte St., according to the police report.
In our second case today, from Green Bay, a family of Sikhs have already plead guilty and are awaiting sentencing for a number of charges involving food stamp fraud.
From the Green Bay Press Gazette:
A family of three will be sentenced April 29 in Brown County Circuit Court on charges connected to food stamp fraud at a store they own and operate on Green Bay’s northeast side.
Gurnek and Gurdeep Basanti and their daughter Simarjot, 26, all pleaded guilty to charges on Thursday. Gurnek and Gurdeep each pleaded to a felony count of food stamp fraud involving a value between $100 and $5,000, and two misdemeanor counts involving a value of less than $100.
They both were facing two felonies and 18 misdemeanors involving more food stamp fraud charges, theft and credit card fraud.
This case also has a hate crime element—a hater or a disgruntled customer?
The Basantis were charged in August with running a food stamp fraud operation out of the store. The complaint said that, with the cooperation of some of their food stamp customers, the couple would overcharge them and pocket the extra cash. They also allegedly would allow those customers to buy alcohol and cigarettes, products that are prohibited under the food stamp program. They also would require some of their customers to leave their credit cards in the store for a period as security for debt and they allegedly used the cards to make purchases.
They have been operating another store, Dollar Land, at the Irwin Avenue site since losing their liquor license. The store was in the news earlier this month when a man emptied a small vial of gasoline onto the cash register and lit it, causing minor damage.
James Parrish, 53, of Green Bay, is accused of arson as a hate crime, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and carrying a concealed weapon in connection with the incident. His next court appearance is April 5.
Parrish was charged with a hate crime because the Basantis are Sikh Americans.
Any real investigative reporters out there? We have dozens and dozens of examples of immigrant-run food stamp fraud cases from sea to shining sea. This is a potential Pulitzer prize winning story for someone! Type ‘food stamp fraud’ into our search function and see what I mean.
My theory is that there are international operatives who recruit potential store owners, train them, provide seed money, and with the help of US attorneys who specialize in helping procure investor visas get them set up in the lucrative business of scamming the American taxpayer.