Baltimore, MD — The owner of the “Second Obama Express” grocery store is accused of allegedly pocketing about $2 million in fake food stamp transactions over a three-year period.
In the food stamp fraud investigation, eight other Baltimore convenience store owners or operators have also been charged in a federal indictment that alleges they stole a total of about $7 million without selling food to the beneficiaries.
Federal agents raided the stores in question on Tuesday morning, and the grand jury indictments were handed down that afternoon.
The Baltimore Sun reports that “FBI agents observed the Obama store and watched dozens of customers leave after conducting [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] transactions with either no items or a small item such as a soda, even as records showed that about half the transactions had been for more than $40.” To gather evidence of food stamp fraud, agents later sent informants wearing wires into the stores to “sell stamps.”
The owners of the stores “debited the funds from the cards in multiple transactions over a period of hours or days,” in an attempt to avoid getting caught by authorities.
According to the US Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, “The indictments allege the retailers received almost $7 million in federal payments for transactions in which they did not provide any food, a fraud scheme commonly known as ‘food stamp trafficking.’ Stores allegedly split the proceeds with food stamp recipients.”
Added US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein about the food stamp fraud charges against the store owners, “Taxpayers fund the food stamp program to put food on the tables of needy recipients, not to put money in the pockets of greedy criminals. Food producers and distributors benefit when food stamp funds are used to buy food, and honest storeowners work hard to earn a profit by actually selling food. People who play by the rules deserve to know that criminals who defraud them will be held accountable.”
Separately, the US Department of Agriculture reports that as of June, about 23 million American households are enrolled in the food stamp (i.e., SNAP) program, representing about 48 million individuals.