Member of Food Stamp Fraud Ring Sentenced to Three Years

December 06, 2019 - 8:57 am

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An employee at a Connecticut supermarket has been sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison for his role in a food stamp scheme that brought in millions.

Muhammad Shahbaz, of Jersey City, New Jersey, accepted a deal with federal prosecutors for food stamp fraud and agreed to repay $1.5 million in restitution Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant sentenced Shahbaz to 33 months in prison.

Shahbaz, 50, was involved in a scheme that brought in $3.2 million in benefits since 2014, authorities said.

Employees at W.B. Trade Fair Supermarket in Hartford exploited the food stamp program to allow customers to buy barred items for a fee, officials alleged.

The food stamp program prohibits the purchase of items that are not deemed to be nutritious foods.

The Republican-American reports that Shahbaz was recorded, by an agent posing as a customer, allowing a bong and cigarettes to be bought with food stamps.

“Although there is no evidence that establishes that Mr. Shahbaz himself was paid any additional compensation beyond his regular hourly wage, his actions helped line the pockets of the store owner — dollars that were supposed to provide assistance to the poor,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo requesting prison time.

Three other employees were sentenced for their role in the conspiracy.