Grocer sentenced for food stamp fraud
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BROWNSVILLE, TX, Jan. 19 - A grocer who defrauded the USDA food stamp program was sentenced this week and ordered to repay almost $2.5 million he obtained illegally by swapping electronic benefit cards for cash.
Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 56, the proprietor of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville, Texas, will be serving 46 months in federal prison for defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as Food Stamp Fraud, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the Southern District of Texas announced.
The federal Food Stamp Program was re-named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008. The program allocates federal funds to be administered by the states to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In 1995, the Health and Human Services Commission converted to an electronic benefit transfer system in Cameron County as a means to more effectively deliver SNAP benefits to program participants. Instead of paper food stamps, participants were given electronic benefit transfer cards, known as “Lone Star” cards.
Rezaei pleaded guilty on Aug. 23, 2011, at which time he admitted he repeatedly exchanged “Lone Star” card benefits from participants in the “food stamp” program for discounted amounts of cash. Rezaei would then charge the government for the full value of the “Lone Star” card transaction. Documents filed of record in the case established Rezaei participated in illicit transactions with federal law enforcement agents working in an undercover capacity.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced Rezaei today and further ordered him to serve a supervised release term of three years following his release from federal prison. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $2,499,999.
The Office of Inspector General for the United Stated Department of Agriculture and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations jointly conducted this investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ana Cano prosecuted the case.
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