The owner of a small St. Paul corner market has been charged by the federal government with $3 million in food stamp fraud, the Pioneer Press reports.
Agents at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General became suspicious after noticing that the Stryker Avenue Market did $3,153,059 worth of EBT redemptions between 2004 and 2009, while the average EBT redeption for a similarly sized story in the state was $322,793. Over a three-year investigation, agents audited the store's sales records, conducted surveillance, and sent in informants to make illegal EBT transactions.
The agency's work resulted in the indictment of the market's former owner, Khaffak Sahib Ansari, who recently sold the store (it has since been renamed Westside Groceries), on three counts of food-stamp fraud. Benefits are supposed to be used to buy groceries, but the federal prosecutors allege that Ansari allowed customers to buy banned items like cigarettes and cell phone minutes, as well as exchanging EBT benefits for cash.