DETROIT (WWJ) - A Detroit market and three people have been charged in a scheme to milk the food stamp program.
Attorney General Bill Schuette announced nine felony charges against three Detroit party store employees resulting from a joint Michigan State Police and U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General investigation into fraudulent food stamp trafficking totaling more than $100,000.
The joint investigation began after federal authorities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered unusually high food stamp redemptions at Randy’s Market, a party store in Detroit.
During the investigation, confidential informants and undercover police officers equipped with recording devices conducted transactions in which they would receive cash from store employees in exchange for food stamp benefits.
Undercover informants would purchase goods not covered by their benefits, including cigarettes, alcohol and magazines, and also ask for cash back.
Between October 2009 and October 2010, employees of Randy’s Market conducted approximately 44 fraudulent transactions with undercover agents.
In exchange for the goods and cash, employees at Randy’s Market charged the benefit card an inflated amount and kept an amount for themselves above and beyond the recipient’s request.
One example of the fraudulent transactions was an agent asking store employees to for $25 in cash and to purchase a pack of cigarettes, while store employees charged the benefit card $50.00 for the transaction, pocketing the extra $25.
A review of food stamp transaction data from August 2009 through December 2010 revealed that similar neighboring stores disclosed an average cumulative monthly amount of food stamp transactions of $2,482 per store.
The monthly food stamp transactions at Randy’s Market during the same period averaged $9,084, or over 365% more than the average monthly volume of comparable stores.
Based on food stamp transactions in excess of comparable store averages from August 2009 through December 2010 ($6,602), the estimated amount of food stamp fraud attributed to the owner and employees of Randy’s Market exceeds $112,234.
Parties charged are husband and wife 29-year-old Rouni Abdul-Ahad and 24-year-old Sara Shango of Shelby Township, along with 20-year-old Omar Sami of Troy. Shango is the owner of Randy’s Market. They are each facing felony charges and decades worth of prison time.
The defendants are due in 36th District Court for a preliminary examination on April 15.