A North Bellmore woman who co-owns a Suffolk County convenience store has been indicted for her role in a scheme to steal nearly $1 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by illegally trading cash for thousands of dollars in SNAP benefits earmarked for Hurricane Sandy victims, according to officials.
On July 29, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, announced a 25-count indictment against the co-operators of Mastic Supermarket Corp., Manjeet Chadha, 48, of North Bellmore, and Sajjad Rashid, 43, of Rocky Point, as well as Haricharan Malhotra, 41, of Mastic, a store employee, and seven SNAP recipients. Chadha, Rashid and Malhotra were charged with felony grand larceny, misuse of food stamps and falsifying business records for allegedly orchestrating the scheme.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the USDA allocated an additional 50 percent in benefits to SNAP recipients in affected areas, without regard to need. The seven recipients charged in the indictment illegally exchanged the benefits for cash at Mastic Supermarket Corp. shortly after the storm, Schneiderman said.
SNAP recipients are issued benefit cards to buy specific food items. But according to the indictment unsealed on July 29, Chadha, Rashid and Malhotra processed phantom SNAP transactions with the help of the seven cardholders. Instead of using their benefits for food, the cardholders received cash equaling half of the amount of the fake purchases, and Chadha, Rashid and Malhotra kept the remainder of the money for themselves, Schneiderman alleges.
“It’s unconscionable that anyone would steal from a program designed to provide nutritional assistance to New Yorkers in need, especially those harmed by Hurricane Sandy,” he said. “There has to be one set of rules for everyone, and that is why my office will hold these individuals accountable and attempt to recover the nearly $1 million stolen from this crucial program.”