NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than a dozen people have been charged in connection with a food stamp fraud investigation, according to authorities.
Grocery stores in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan were raided Wednesday as part of a joint investigation between Homeland Security, the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Health.
The alleged fraud involves the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) food stamp program.
Food stamp recipients would go to certain stores and trade the stamps for money, authorities said. The recipients would receive about 80 cents on a dollar, with the store pocketing the rest, authorities said.
“A real store of the same size would do approximately 171 vouchers per month. We saw, in the instance of one store, that was doing 26,000 vouchers a month,” HSI New York Special Agent in Charge James Hayes told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
Hayes said the alleged scheme was so lucrative, some of the stores sold no groceries at all.
“What we found was inventory so low and some instances so old, that they were doing very little retail business outside the scheme involving the WIC vouchers,” he said.
Sixteen people were charged in connection with the investigation, authorities said.
“The conduct charged here is particularly egregious in light of the fact that the defendants stole monies intended to provide nutrition for infants, young children and pregnant mothers,” New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
The suspects are all charged with conspiracy to commit theft of government funds, which carries a maximum five years in prison if convicted.
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