Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrests Of Niagara Falls Deli Owners And Employees For Food Stamp Fraud
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (November 13, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of five deli owners and employees for illegally trading cash for thousands of dollars in food stamp benefits in the City of Niagara Falls.
The arrests cap a year-long investigation by Attorney General Cuomo’s Office, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General into crimes involving the misuse of food stamps at Niagara Falls delis.
Food stamp recipients are issued a benefit card to purchase specified food items. According to felony complaints filed today, a multi-agency undercover operation revealed a scheme in which deli owners and workers would process food stamp transactions without actually selling food. The owners and workers then gave the cardholders cash equaling half the amount of the faked purchases and then kept the remainder of the money for themselves.
“These workers are accused of taking part in a scheme to steal from a taxpayer-funded public benefit program designed to help put food on people’s tables,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Given our current fiscal situation, it is more important than ever to make sure that government programs do not fall prey to fraud and abuse. My office will continue to act aggressively when it comes to protecting taxpayer dollars.”
Food stamp benefits are funded by the federal government, and the program is administered by state and local county social service agencies. Federal and state laws require that food stamp recipients use benefits only for the purchase of specified food items and prohibit the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash.
Attorney General Cuomo thanks the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office for its role in the undercover operation.
Niagara County Sheriff-Elect James Voutour said, "I appreciate the cooperation at all levels of law enforcement and government that allowed for this successful undercover operation. I thank Attorney General Cuomo for his crime fighting efforts that are making a real difference to the people of Niagara County. I look forward to strengthening our partnership in the future."
The individuals arrested in today’s sweep were either owners or employees of several Niagara Falls delis and are charged with the following:
- · Eman Dyoke, owner of Hyde Park Deli, 2910 Hyde Park Boulevard, Niagara Falls, for illegally exchanging $4,303 in cash for $8,375.03 in food stamp benefits
- · Audrey Renford, owner of Highland Deli ETC, 2712 Highland Avenue, Niagara Falls, for illegally exchanging $583.50 in cash for $1,232.26 in food stamp benefits
- · Akeisha Renford, clerk at Highland Deli ETC, for illegally exchanging $911.50 in cash for $1,897.75 in food stamp benefits
- · Awad Dubashi, owner of Rainbow Deli, 628 Niagara Street, Niagara Falls, for illegally exchanging $4,117 in cash for $8,499.31 in food stamp benefits
- · Albert Mansour, clerk at Bishara Bros Deli, 1302 Pierce Avenue, Niagara Falls, for illegally exchanging $1,152 in cash for $2,355.78 in food stamp benefits
Dyoke and Dubashi were both charged with grand larceny in the third degree, a “D” felony, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Mansour, Audrey Renford, and Akeisha Renford were each charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree, an “E” felony, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison. The Office of the Attorney General also charged all of the defendants with crimes under the New York Social Services Law, regarding the misuse of food stamps. The defendants were arraigned today in Niagara Falls City Court and released on their own recognizance pending further proceedings on November 21.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael McCabe of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau under the supervision of Gail Heatherly, Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, and Richard Ernst, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. The chief investigators are Sandra Migaj of the Attorney General’s Office, Brian Kees of the Inspector General’s Office in the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Welfare Fraud Division of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.