Store Owner Pleads Guilty to SNAP Fraud
ANCHORAGE, AK—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that an Anchorage store owner pled guilty to wire fraud and criminal forfeiture in connection with the SNAP federal food aid program that he was authorized to administer out of his store.
Ayub Yusef Eprahin, 44, pled guilty today, before United States District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess, to two counts of wire fraud and one count of criminal forfeiture. According to a plea agreement, Eprahin faces a maximum of two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. As part of his plea of guilty, Eprahin agreed to forfeit $42,489.44 to the United States as proceeds of the fraud.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki, in November 2012, Eprahin was the owner of the Africa and Middle East Market and a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), formerly known as the “Food Stamp Program,” administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutritional Service. The program is designed to provide authorized nutritional foods to low-income families. The federal government pays the full cost of the SNAP benefits and also shares with the states some of the administrative costs. Under the SNAP program, authorized recipients are issued a certain amount of benefits each month, which they may use to purchase eligible food items. SNAP recipients typically receive their benefits in the form of a credit on their personal electronic benefit transfer card. The rules of the program prohibit the purchase of items other than food, and the card benefits cannot be redeemed for cash. Eprahin and his store were authorized to accept payment for eligible purchases through SNAP. As a participant in the program, Eprahin was allowed to receive computer issued payments based on authorized purchases made by participants who shopped in his store. As part of the scheme, Eprahin permitted non-food items to be purchased and cash to be distributed to participants in the program using SNAP benefits. Eprahin represented to the SNAP program that the benefits were being redeemed to purchase eligible food items when in fact the purchases were not for eligible items. Eprahin improperly received federal program reimbursement for the ineligible items he sold and the cash he illegally distributed. Sentencing is set for November 7, 2014, in Anchorage.
Ms. Loeffler commends the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Department of Agriculture, who administers the SNAP program, for their investigation of this case.