15 Sep 2014
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Rockland Residents Charged With $55,000 Food Stamp Theft

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced criminal charges against 26 individuals for illegally trading SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) benefits for cash. Zugibe said 26 recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) were charged with $55,000 in theft from the program over a three-year period.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Zugibe said the offenders, who lived throughout Rockland, would enter the Nyack Food Mart and ask for cash. The store charged about a 30 percent fee for the illegal transaction. Zugibe said there were telltale signs such as transactions in large rounded amounts. 

Cyril Kerr, a criminal investigator with the district attorney’s office, showed a video clip of a transaction during which a suspect asked for $500 cash.

“The total transaction here is going to be for $625,” Kerr said. “The so-called customer is going to get $500 in cash.” 

The storeowner allegedly kept the difference. 

“We got a tipoff,” said Senior Assistant District Attorney Ameenah Karim. 

The DA’s office then began an investigation and obtained search warrants for the store’s surveillance videotapes. Federal authorization was needed for the investigation because SNAP is federal government program.

Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood said the investigation took about a year but now authorities have a method and process they can use for other investigations.

“I think we have a process now we can follow the stores,” said Sherwood.

She said Nyack Food Mart has been disqualified from serving as a SNAP vendor. If the SNAP recipients who have been charged are found guilty, they will be suspended from the program for one year if it is their first offense. If it is their second offense or they transacted over $500 illegally, they will be permanently barred from the program. 

Those accused of illegally trading SNAP benefits include: Eric Brown, Melissa Castillo, Joan Christopher, Ebens Louis, and Shameta Williams of Nyack; Lawrence Mulqueen and Murali Panchacharam of Nanuet; Mayra Munoz of Valley Cottage; Nyisha Peterson and Catherine Sisco of Central Nyack; Edward Beauchard, Donnie Broadnax, Gale Calhoun, Sheila Cash aka Sheila Brooks, Jennifer Delbiondo, Michelle Louis-Jean, Adrienne Teachey and Samuel Sisco of Spring Valley; Haydee Rodriguez of Monsey; Michael Coyle and Terance Maurice of Stony Point; Maxine Hansen of Rhinebeck and Robert Hicks, who did not have an address. The amounts they allegedly transacted ranged from $6,428.08 to $326 and all were charged with grand larceny or petty larceny and other counts.

“It’s just infuriating when you see something like this,” said Sherwood. 

Zugibe said earlier this year the owners of the store at 3 Waldron Ave in Central Nyack along with store clerks had been charged with either grand larceny or petty larceny along with misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic access devices totaling $100,000.

Sherwood said 16,000 Rockland families receive SNAP benefits, which can range up to $700 per month.  In 2012, Social Services uncovered more than $300,000 in fraudulent transactions.

 

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