Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe on Monday announced that Nissar Ahmed, age 61, and Shafaqat Ali, age 47, each pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class “E” felony, in connection with a scheme to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash and other goods.

Ahmed and Ali, owners of the Nyack Food Mart, Inc., 4 Waldron Avenue, Nyack, New York, allowed individuals to use their Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program (SNAP) electronic benefit transfer cards to receive cash back and/or purchase alcohol, cigarettes and other prohibited items.

Nyack Food Mart, Inc. was also charged in the case. The business, as a corporate entity, also pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree.

“Unscrupulous retailers who trade food stamp credits for cash are on notice: we will find you and prosecute you,” said District Attorney Zugibe. “Our taxpayers support the program to provide food for needy residents, not to turn convenience store cash registers into ATM’s.”

Rockland County Department of Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood said,”The abuse of the SNAP program is particularly infuriating because we know there are many of residents who really do need this help. We at DSS are watchful and I encourage all residents to feel free to call us anonymously at InfoRock 364-2020 if they see or suspect any misdealing with any of our programs.”

SNAP is administered by the United States 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.

Ahmed and Ali knew that it was a violation of SNAP regulations to trade cash for SNAP benefits. Nevertheless, between March 29, 2012 and January 15, 2013, the defendants, along with several store clerks, exchanged SNAP benefits for cash at less than face value of the EBT benefits, in violation of the food stamp program rules and held a percentage of the benefits for themselves.

Ahmed, Ali and Nyack Food Mart, Inc. were arrested in January, 2013 on charges of Grand Larceny and Misuse of Food Stamps in connection with a sweeping scheme to allow SNAP recipients to illegally redeem their benefits for cash and other prohibited items. Criminal charges were later filed against 26 food stamp recipients for illegally trading cash for thousands of dollars in SNAP benefits.A review of SNAP transactions by the Department of Social Services uncovered more in $680,000 in prohibited transactions. As part of the plea agreement, Ahmed and Ali were ordered to pay significant restitution.

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 Fraud Control Unit Director Stephen Hamilton and the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Office of Audit and Quality Improvement. The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ameenah Karim.

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