MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The owner of a St. Paul store pleaded guilty to trafficking about $3 million in food stamps.
Khaffak Sahib Ansari, 45, of Arden Hills, Minn., pleaded guilty to one count of food stamp fraud as part of a plea deal.
He faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but the judge will determine his sentence at a future hearing.
The USDA said they let Ansari’s store, Stryker Avenue Market, start taking food stamps in 1998. He had to take an orientation class to make sure he understood the rules regarding the federal food stamp program and EBT cards.
The program clearly states that only eligible food items can be bought with food stamps or an EBT card, and items like alcohol, tobacco products, and cell phone minutes can’t be bought with the money. Additionally, food stamps can’t be redeemed for cash.
In his plea agreement, Ansari admitted that between Jan. 1, 2006 and Oct. 7, 2010, he exchanged the stamps for cash and ineligible merchandise.
For example, on July 16, 2008, Ansari swiped a person’s EBT card for $401.12 and then gave that person $200 in cash. Then, on Jan. 7, 2010, Ansari swiped another person’s card for $131.86 and provided that person $100 in cash.
According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, between 2004 and 2009, the average annual food stamp redemption for a similarly sized store in Minnesota was around $322,793. During that same period, Stryker’s annual redemptions totaled approximately $3.1 million.