ALLEGED WELFARE SCAMMERS BUSTED BY ZUGIBE

PRESS RELEASE

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef announced on Wednesday that two Village of Nyack store owners and several clerks have been charged in connection with the fraudulent use of the Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.

District Attorney Zugibe said, “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.”

The charges cover the period between March 29, 2012 and January 15, 2013. According to documents filed in court, Nissar Ahmed (DOB 04/02/53) and Shafaqat Ali (DOB 12/09/66), owners of the Nyack Food Mart, 4 Waldron Avenue, Nyack, New York, and several store clerks, were engaged in a scheme to unlawfully exchange food stamps for cash.

SNAP is administered by the United States 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.

According to the charges, Ahmed, Ali and the other defendants would permit individuals to use their electronic benefit transfer cards to receive cash back from the card and/or purchase alcohol, cigarettes and other prohibited items in the aggregate amount of $1,402.

In some instances, the clerks would swipe the customer’s EBT card and enter fraudulent information on a dedicated EBT terminal, indicating that the customer purchased groceries. The clerks would allegedly furnish 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.

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.

County Executive Vanderhoef said, “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.”

The defendants 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 Petit Larceny, a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

All defendants are scheduled to appear in the Town of Clarkstown Justice Court on January 30, 2013.

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.