Florida Food Stamp Scam: Grocer Allegedly Used EBT Cards to Stock Shelves

Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 02:24 PM

By Megan Anderle

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A Florida convenience store owner and his son were arrested Thursday after police, state, and federal agents raided the business in connection with an EBT card food stamp scam spanning several months, a police spokesman said.

Bassam Sale Abu Diab, 55, a native of Israel, and his son, Matthew Bassam Abu Diab, born in the U.S., allegedly purchased EBT cards from customers at deeply discounted prices and then bought items for the store at Walmart and Save-A-Lot stores, effectively stocking the store on taxpayers' dime.

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The pair used EBT cards to purchase goods at 20 to 40 cents on the dollar, according to police arrest reports.

On one undercover mission of several, an officer posing as a customer sold her EBT card to the merchants of the Daytona Beach 4M Food Mart for $210. That day, they allegedly  went to a nearby Walmart and made $420.14 in purchases.

This was one of several undercover missions that verified the men were purchasing the cards at a heavily discounted price and then using them, officials said.

Authorities tracked the father and son for three months and said the ring started in December if not earlier.

The store's register reportedly acquired $88,000 in EBT card transactions over the period, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal, but the two may have made hundreds of thousands more stocking the shelves with merchandise purchased with EBT cards.

On Monday, the Secret Service, state agencies, and the Daytona Beach Police Department seized $23,000 at the business, a car, and computers, according to local news station WFTV Channel 9.

This is the second time the Abu Diabs' business has been raided. Bassam Abu Diab was accused of running a pawn shop without a license in December.

At the time, police discovered Bassam Abu Diab had a display case full of various electronics for sale. He told the officer he would pay people to hold the items and sell them if they did not return for them, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal.

“This guy is running a business on the taxpayers' back,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood told Daytona local news station WFTV Channel 9. “It’s a fraud. He’s unscrupulous and clearly he didn’t learn from the last time we hit the store.”

Last year, nearly 1,400 stores were involved in illegally exchanging food stamp cards for cash, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the EBT program.

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Related stories:

Food Stamp Use Reaches Record 45.3 Million Under Obama

Obama Administration Promotes Food Stamps as Economic Stimulus

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