Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867
Intended comprare kamagra senza ricetta company.
Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

DA Rice: Seven Charged In Food Stamp Fraud Cases

Westbury man facing up to one year in prison if convicted

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced on May 25 that seven people and three companies, including one man from Westbury, have been charged with stealing more than $875,000 in food stamp benefits by either trading cash for benefits or by accepting benefits for improper items, including one man from Westbury.

The arrests are the result of a two-year joint investigation by the DA’s Office, the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA) and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted with the arrests.

Rice said the seven people who worked at the three stores either illegally accepted food stamp benefits for alcoholic beverages or cigarettes, or exchanged cash for benefits. For example, undercover investigators would make a $120 food stamp transaction and receive $50 in cash while the store kept $70 in cash for itself, Rice said, while investigators were often able to exchange benefits for cash on multiple benefit cards in the names of various individuals.

The estimated theft figures below are calculated by the USDA and are based on the criminal conduct reported by undercover investigators and the stores’ estimated food stamp benefit sales figures versus the stores’ actual food stamp benefit sales figures, according to the DA.

“Food stamp benefits are meant for the neediest of citizens so that they can put a healthy meal on the table for their families, not as a money-making scheme for scam artists who think they can game the system,” Rice said. “My office is committed to weeding out the waste, fraud, and abuse that affect our government programs and victimize every citizen.”

As a result of this investigation, 50 food stamp recipients have been identified as engaging in food stamp trafficking and that information will be forwarded to the Nassau County Department of Social Services for appropriate action.

Charged as a result of the investigation are:

• Elmer Zavala, 25, of Westbury, a clerk at Real Deli and Grocery, Inc. in Roosevelt, is charged with misdemeanor misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices and petit larceny. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

• Main Street Trading Corporation, doing business as Around the Clock Grocery in Hempstead, and its owner, Syed Ishrat Hussain, 45, of Elmont, are charged with second-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices, both C felonies. Rice said that from June 2010 to May 2012, it is estimated by the USDA that Main Street, through its employees, stole approximately $347,789 by either accepting food stamp benefits for improper items like alcohol and cigarettes, or by exchanging cash for benefits. Two store clerks were also charged:

• Khalid Ousaf, 59, of Hempstead, is charged with misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices, a class D felony, third-degree grand larceny, two counts of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree and two counts of criminal use of a public benefit card in the first degree. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

• Salim Ashraf, 55, of Hempstead, is charged with misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices and fourth-degree grand larceny, both E felonies. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

• Commercial Deli and Grocery Corp. in Roosevelt, and its owner, Ramon Gonzalez, 50, of South Ozone Park, are charged with grand larceny in the second degree and misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices, both C felonies. Gonzalez is also charged with third-degree grand larceny, two counts of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree and two counts of criminal use of a public benefit card in the first degree. Rice said that from June 2010 to May 2012, it is estimated by the USDA that Commercial Deli, through its employees, stole approximately $271,041 by either accepting food stamp benefits for improper items like alcohol and cigarettes, or by exchanging cash for benefits. One store clerk was also charged:

• Jose DeJesus Collado, 46, of Freeport, is charged with misdemeanor misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices and petit larceny. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

• Real Deli and Grocery, Inc., and its owner, Israel Cruz Blanco, 35, of Roosevelt, are charged with second-degree grand larceny and misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices, both C felonies. Blanco is also charged with third-degree grand larceny, three counts of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree, and three counts of criminal use of a public benefit card in the first degree. Rice said that from June 2010 to May 2012, the USDA estimates that Commercial Deli, through its employees, stole approximately $256,769 by either accepting food stamp benefits for improper items like alcohol and cigarettes, or by exchanging cash for benefits.

“The people arrested allegedly took benefits that were supposed to go to needy families, and exchanged them for cash to feed their greed,” said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI in New York. “These arrests send a strong message that defrauding the government and stealing from taxpayers does not pay.”

Chief Christine Burke of the Public Assistance Fraud Unit is prosecuting the cases for the DA’s Office. Gonzalez is represented by Lawrence Kerben, Esq.; Zavala is represented by David Gevanter, Esq.; Ousaf is represented by Joe Megale, Esq. The remaining four defendants are represented by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty, Rice added.