The owners of a Pembroke convenience store have been charged with food stamp fraud, accordingto a press release from the United States Attorney’s office in Savannah. The store was closed March 27 while investigators from the U.S.D.A. served search warrants at the store.
Here’s the full text of a press release announcing the charges. It was sent Friday afternoon.
Savannah, Georgia: Edmund A. Booth, Jr., United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment against PINALBEN MANILAL PATEL, age 37, and ANISH DAHYABHAI PATEL, age 41, of Pembroke, Georgia, charging them with conspiring to commit food stamp fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and Title 7, United States Code, Section 2024(b)(1).
Booth noted that the charges in the indictment relate to the redemption of food stamp benefits at the Quick Stop 70 convenience store in Pembroke, owned by PINALBEN PATEL. Both PINALBEN PATEL and ANISH DAHYABHAI PATEL worked at the Quick Stop 70 as cashiers. That convenience store was authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP"), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Booth commented that "the purpose of that program is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition among low-income families by providing ‘food stamp’ benefits, which can be used in the form of a debit card to purchase eligible food items at approved retailers, like the Quick Stop 70."
According to the allegations of the indictment, the defendants conspired from October 2006 to March 2009 to acquire over $100,000 in food stamp benefits in a manner unauthorized
by law – specifically, by redeeming their customers’ food stamp benefits for ineligible items such as cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline, and phone cards, and by trading their customers’ food stamp benefits for cash.
Booth stated that, if convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five (5) years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and a period of supervised release of three (3) years. An initial appearance has not yet been scheduled.
Booth stressed that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by Special Agent Salina Walker of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney R. Brian Tanner.
See more of this story in Saturday's Bryan County News.