WAYNE, N.J. -- A married Wayne couple who managed a grocery store sold $4 million worth of food stamps for cash, federal authorities charged.
Ibrahim Zughbi, 64, Miriam Zughbi, 59, have operated Jamaica Meat Market, a medium-size grocery store in Paterson, since January 2014.
They were authorized to accept benefits provided by SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said."Retail food stores approved for participation in SNAP may sell food in exchange for SNAP benefits," Carpenito said. "They may not exchange SNAP benefits for cash."
Noticing a high volume deducted electronically through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) debit cards, federal authorities employed a confidential source "who, at the direction of law enforcement, engaged in 16 'purchases' at Jamaica Meat Market where one or both defendants exchanged money for SNAP benefits," the U.S. attorney said.
Ibrahim Zughbi previously participated in SNAP when he was the owner of Neighborhood Supermarket, a grocery store that operated out of the same location.
The USDA permanently disqualified him in March 2011 after the market was accused of several SNAP violations, Carpenito said.
"Another individual took over the business, changed its name to Jamaica Meat Market, and certified in writing to the USDA that Ibrahim Zughbi would have nothing to do with the business or its participation in the program," he said. "Zughbi continued to run Jamaica Meat Market, and continued to exchange cash for SNAP benefits."
In addition to fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges brought against him and his wife, Ibrahim Zughbi is charged with money laundering.
Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the investigation leading to today’s charges.
He also thanked the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Wayne Township Police Department and the Paterson Police Department for their roles in the investigation.
Handling the case for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Sammi Malek of Carpenito's Criminal Division in Newark.
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