NEW YORK -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said last week 24 individuals have been charged with participating in a multimillion-dollar fraud and money-laundering scheme involving food stamps.
volumes of food stamps from Chinese takeout restaurants in the Greater New York metropolitan area and other sources, at a certain percentage of the coupons' face value," then allegedly resold them to the defendants at a greater percentage of the face value. The complaint did not explain where the restaurants got the food stamps.
The complaint said the defendants deposited food stamps each month in amounts often exceeding $100,000; for example, depositing food stamps worth $3.1 million for a store whose annual gross sales volume, according to the retailer's food-stamp application, was $468,000.
The defendants are also accused of using the cash they received to write checks for deposit in accounts in Florida and Puerto Rico held in the names of individuals in the Dominican Republic; and of filing new food-stamp applications to change the names and ownership records of stores that were still managed by the defendants.
If convicted of money-laundering, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and either a $500,000 fine or twice the value of funds involved in the crime, whichever is greater; and if convicted of food-stamp fraud conspiracy, each faces a term of five years and the greater of a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the alleged crime.
The complaint is based on a two-year investigation by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food-stamp program through its Food and Nutrition Service.