PD: AZ store owner traded cash, drugs for food stamps benefits - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

PD: AZ store owner traded cash, drugs for food stamps benefits

Police scene at New Star Market on Thursday. Police scene at New Star Market on Thursday.

A Phoenix convenience store owner was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding the federal food stamps program.

Joo Ho Yi, owner of the New Star Market, is accused of committing 10 intentional violations of the food stamp program by illegally purchasing the benefits from electronic benefit transfer cards.

Investigators said the store gave customers a total of $544 in cash, five bags of marijuana and half an ounce of methamphetamine in exchange for more than $4,000 in food stamps benefits.

Fraud against the program exceeded $6,000 from Yi's store, federal authorities said. 

"Vendors who engage in food stamps fraud prey upon those who are truly in need and profit from the misfortune of others," said Special Agent-in-Charge Lori Chan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The Office of Inspector General works to ensure SNAP funds are used for their intended purpose of feeding families, not for the enrichment of criminal enterprises," Chan said. 

Yi was booked into the Maricopa County Jail for unlawful use of food stamps, sale of a dangerous drug and sale of marijuana.

The arrest is part of an ongoing investigation stemming from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's 2010 establishment of an anti-fraud Trafficking Detection Unit within the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

The unit targets individuals who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but use the benefits unlawfully.  

At least 31 people have been charged with felonies stemming from these investigations, with 23 pleading guilty so far. Restitution in the amount of $241,193 has been paid to the food stamps program, and fines totaling $6,850 have been paid to the Attorney General's Anti-Racketeering Revolving Fund.

The remaining eight defendants are in various stages of the litigation process.  

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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