ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Three people have been charged with using other people’s food stamps to purchase groceries and ship them to Africa at a profit.
According to the criminal complaints, the group operating the scheme bought up EBT cards from those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). They would usually buy them from people at homeless shelters, offering them 50 cents on the dollar.
Those named in the complaints include 39-year-old Noni Snider of Eden Prairie, 38-year-old Walter Cooper of Plymouth, and 40-year-old Nyla Newburgh of Minneapolis.
The complaints allege they would then use the food stamps to buy up a large number of non-perishable items from Sam’s Club, Walmart and Rainbow Foods in the Twin Cities.
They would then sell those foods to Liberia, using a company they set up in 2008 called “Floxy Enterprises” to do business. The complaint highlighted transactions that had been made during 2012.
“The safety net that SNAP provides to needy families is an important part of helping people out of poverty in our community,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. “In order to sustain our community’s safety net, the integrity and public confidence of the Food Stamp Program must be upheld and government should take appropriate means to protect our public investment.”
Snider and Cooper have been charged with counts of wrongfully obtaining public assistance and conspiracy to commit a felony. Newburgh has been charged with conspiracy to commit a gross misdemeanor.
Those charges come after 18 long months of investigation.
Investigators used surveillance footage from a Walmart in St. Paul, Minn. and a Sam’s Club in St. Louis Park, Minn. to catch the suspects.
And now, Ramsey County District Attorney said there’s a secondary problem that was caused by this scam.
“These individuals who were selling are now, you now, basically selling these food stamps for cash — and who knows what they’re using that money for. And you’ve got these buyers who are using really the government program to subsidize their illicit and illegal commercial exporting business,” said Ramsey County district attorney John Choi.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s office said they originally received a tip from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about people buying large amounts of soda and non-perishable food.
Their purchases totaled more than $11,000.