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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Ex-convenience store operator charged in food stamp fraud case

    Providence (AP) - A former 7-Eleven franchisee in Rhode Island has been accused of taking food stamp benefits for cash at his Providence convenience store.

    A complaint unsealed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Providence says 43-year-old Syed Shah charged an undercover investigator $60 in food stamps for $40 in cash. The complaint does not disclose how much investigators believe Shah fraudulently pocketed in food stamp benefits. Investigators say food stamp redemptions at his store skyrocketed from $228,000 in 2008 to nearly $1 million last year.

    The Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture began its probe of Shah's store in 2008, two years after he took over the business.

    The complaint says Shah told an investigator on Aug. 15 that an employee only identified as "S.K." started giving cash back for food stamps in 2009. Investigators say the practice boosted business and Shah feared losing customers if he did not keep it up. He told an investigator he charged $30 to $40 in food stamps for every $50 in cash requested.

    Authorities say the average monthly food stamp redemption at Shah's store was $69,025, compared with a combined monthly redemption average of $8,770 at the other five 7-Eleven franchises in the area. Shah is also accused of letting customers purchase items that are prohibited under food stamp rules and letting them run up tabs.

    Court filings show Shah was released on unsecured bond. He is charged with conspiracy to acquire and possess supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits.

    The complaint says 7-Eleven stripped him of his franchise last December. Court filings show Shah is employed by the military, but does not indicate what he does or where he works.

    His attorney did not immediately return a message. A man who answered the phone at listing for Shah said it was a wrong number when asked about the criminal complaint.

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