St. Louis Store Owner Pleads Guilty to $1.9 million in Food Stamp Fraud

Monday, 12 May 2014 07:32 PM

By Jason Devaney

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Taxpayers lost more than $600,000 after a St. Louis shop owner illegally sold cologne, cigarettes, and calling cards to people using food stamps in 2011. He also provided a cash back option to customers using food stamps, which is also against the law.

Ebraheem Maki Naif, the owner of Gravois Discount Smokes, pled guilty to one felony count of food stamp fraud last week.  He faces up to 10 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000. He will be sentenced in August.

From 2008-2012, Naif redeemed $1.9 million in food stamp benefits from the federal government. In 2011, that number was $690,198, but he only reported $80,800 worth of sales through food stamps that year to the city of St. Louis. That resulted in an overpayment of $609,398 in 2011 because of his scheme.

Naif also agreed to forfeit a vehicle and $30,765 taken from him by authorities during the investigation.

In March, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that customers paying for goods with food stamps are key to its profits. That claim was supported by the January news, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, that the harsh winter, coupled with cuts to food stamp programs, led to a decline in late-season sales.

"Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control," Wal-Mart said in its last annual report.  "These factors include … changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement[al] Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans...."

Last month, it was reported that there are more Americans on food stamps than there are working women. Data from 2012 shows there was an average of 46.6 million people receiving food stamps per month. That same year, 44.1 million women worked full-time.

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