How Food Stamp Transactions Resulted in Fraud Charges in Boynton Beach
According to an article in The Palm Beach Post, five men were arrested Thursday after undercover officers posed as customers with U.S. government food stamp cards and found fraudulent activity at five convenience stores in the city.
- Shuhab Mahari, 48, a clerk at the EZ Mart on North Seacrest Boulevard;
- Mohammed Hossain, 32, a clerk at Palm Food & Beverage on East Boynton Beach Boulevard;
- Abdul Gaffar, 52, a clerk at the Kwik Stop on South Federal Highway;
- Rafiqul Chowdhury, 50, president of First Stop Foods on South Federal Highway; and
- Kamal Ahmed, 27, a clerk at First Stop Foods.
Police said that an undercover transaction also took place at a Stop-N-Go on West Boynton Beach Boulevard, but they did not serve a search warrant at that location.
The investigation showed that store clerks were allowing customers to use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to buy beer, cigarettes and get cash, a Boynton Beach Police Department release said. Dubbed Operation: Meal Ticket, the local probe was prompted by information from actual EBT cardholders who told police that they were able to get cash from the cards for a fee.
The cards, issued to help low-income and disabled people, are only to be used to buy food.
During the investigation, undercover officers would walk into a store with a fictitious EBT card and request cash in a certain dollar amount. The clerk would charge a fee for a matching amount. Police were able to conduct 68 fraudulent transactions worth $4,000 at the five convenience stores in five months, the release said.
Police have also identified nearly 100 people who have committed fraud by using the EBT cards and expect to file charges on them in the near future, the release stated.
Fraud and the Law
Depending upon the amount taken, fraud charges can have very serious consequences in Florida. Theft of $300 to $20,000 by fraud is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If you have committed fraud, the most effective way to resolve the case is to have a criminal defense lawyer help you. In order to avoid any serious consequences, you should pay restitution. In Florida, restitution outweighs incarceration. Your criminal defense lawyer can persuade the victims to drop charges in favor of receiving restitution. This is the only way to avoid prison time.