Two owners of the Quick Stop 70 in Pembroke have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit food stamp fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Edmund Booth.
The store was authorized to take part in the US food stamp program, but officials say owner Pinalben Patel and an employee, Anish Dahyabhai Patel, attempted to gain over $100,000 in food stamp benefits by "trading food stamps for ineligible items such as cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, phone cards and trading customer’s food stamp benefits for cash," according to a press release."The intention of the program," Booth said, "is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition among low income families by providing benefits in the form of a debit card to allow purchase of eligible food items at approved retailers like the Quick Stop 70."
If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release, according to Booth -- who stressed the indictments are only an accusation.
"All defendant’s are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.
The Patels were not available for comment. The store was closed by authorites on March 27 while a USDA representative executed a search warrant. It reopened the following Monday.