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Nyack Store Owner, Clerks Charged in Food Stamp Fraud

D.A.: Food stamps were illegally exchanged for cash.

The owners of a Nyack convenience store and five of its clerks have been charged with food stamp fraud, according to Rockland County officials.

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said operators of Nyack Food Mart, 4 Waldron Ave., are accused of unlawfully paying cash for food stamps. The store, Zugibe said, also allowed individuals to use their electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and other prohibited items.

In the scheme, Zugibe said the store took an illegal cut from the food stamps.

“These defendants exploited a program designed to help our neediest residents. By unlawfully exchanging food stamps for cash, these individuals perpetrated a fraud on the hardworking taxpayers of Rockland County,”  Zugibe said.

The charges cover the period from March 29, 2012, to Tuesday, Jan. 15, with store owners Nissar Ahmed, 59, and Shafaqat Ali, 46, cited in the scheme involving the use of the Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. 

SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Benefits are distributed to low‐income recipients in New York through the use of electronic benefit transfer cards.

Individuals enrolled in the program are only allowed to purchase eligible items with their EBT cards, such as milk, bread and eggs. Recipients are not permitted to purchase items such as alcohol and cigarettes. They are also not allowed to obtain cash from merchants in exchange for SNAP benefits.

Zugibe said that in some instances, the clerks at the store would swipe the customer’s EBT card and enter fraudulent information on a dedicated EBT terminal, indicating that the customer purchased groceries. The clerks are accused of giving cash to the customer for a portion of what was charged to the EBT card account, providing the store with a profit on each fraudulent transaction.

According to the charges, for example, a customer would enter the store and ask the merchant for $60 in cash. The defendants would ring up a fictitious sale of $120 in qualifying groceries, and then pay out $60 in cash to the customer. The store’s account would subsequently be credited with $120 from the customer’s EBT SNAP account, providing the store a $60 profit on the illicit transaction. 

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef praised the work of investigators.

“I want to compliment District Attorney Zugibe and Department of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood’s Special Investigations Unit for their critical work in sending an important message to SNAP store owners, vendors and program participants that they not engage in this type of criminal activity,” Vanderhoef said.

This case was investigated by the Special Investigations Unit of the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Rockland County Department of Social Services and the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Office of Audit and Quality Improvement. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ameenah Karim. 

Those accused in the investigation are variously charged with the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a Class “E” felony, Misuse of Food Stamps, Food Stamp Program Coupons, Authorization Cards or Electronic Access Devices a Class “E” felony, both punishable by up to four years in state prison, and petty larceny, a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. 

Also charged in the investigation are:

Kusum Joshi, 48, of 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Ansar Haniffa, 72, 15 W. Funston Ave, Apt. 209, Spring Valley

Balbir Singh, 62, 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Kavender Joshi, 49, 3 Waldron Ave., Nyack

Muneer Khan, 28, 121 Grandview Ave., Nanuet

They plus the store owners face a hearing on Jan. 30 in Clarkstown Town Court in New City.

Scotty January 16, 2013 at 11:44 PM
If they are found guilty after trial...or they plead guilty.....they all MUST receive jail time and not probation. Why you ask ? Why jail time you ask ? Because if they don't get REAL jail time...they will be back at their store doing it all over again...but will be real careful and much harder to catch again. A real lesson must be learned by them and any other store owner and employees....cheat the system by committing fraud and you go to jail. real simple isn't it. Anyone want to bet if they do receive jail time ?
Larry January 17, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Everyone that works and pays their fair share of taxes got ripped off. This is the taxpayers money that has been stolen. Jail time for the store owners and clerks as well as the people that were illegally using their handouts! My suggestion is that if your an honest, hard working tax paying person, don't ever use this store again as long as these people still own it. I will go out of my way to never spend another dime there.
Pat January 17, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Can they be deported?
Alex Umrichin January 17, 2013 at 12:14 PM
This is what happens when welfare payments are paid remotely. All welfare payments should require that the beneficiary show up in person periodically to verify his/her status and explain why the payments should continue and what they've done to get off welfare.. At least once a quarter but once a month would be better.
Michael Zaretsky January 17, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Alex, Public assistance recepiants do have tobrecertfy routinely. Please don't blame the victem. I challenge any of you to try to survive on the benefits alloted - they are struggling and sadly many recipients exchange their food stamps for money so they can pay rent and other bills. Don't pick on the poor. Trust me, DSS is so abusive to these folks it is umbablevable. It may be you or a family member one day. One day you have a job and then you don't . Chill!
John D. January 17, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Michael Zaretsky - Your sympathies are misplaced. If people don't follow the rules for these programs (both recipients and store owners), then everyone suffers. These people were exchanging their food stamps for alcohol, cigarettes and other prohibited items. Also, if they were using food stamps to pay for things other than food, then they were receiving too many food stamps. If our taxes are paying for a food stamp program, then the funds should go to food purchases in accordance with the rules. Not rent, cigarettes, booze or whatever else these people were using them for.
Villain January 17, 2013 at 04:54 PM
I knew the people in that store were crooked. I had a very bad experience there ~ two times~ and stopped going there. I am glad they were caught of wrong doing because I was going to report them to the BBB! Good job exposing them!!!
Tony T January 18, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Believe me this is not an isolated incident. It happen every day through out Nyack, Rockland and NY State. The entire social welfare system is ripe with fraud....and it is only getting worse.
Tony T January 18, 2013 at 03:01 AM
You really don't believe what your wrote....that $60 is going to buy drugs, booze and cigaretts.
Kerry Ohare January 21, 2013 at 02:59 PM
They have expired soda..I am sure other stuffalso
Warren G Harding January 21, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Stop making sense Mr Zaretsky

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