Park Heights Store Owner Sentenced to Prison for Food Stamp Fraud
BALTIMORE, MD—U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III sentenced Jung Kim, age 52, of Ellicott City, Maryland, to 20 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, for food stamp and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash. Judge Russell also entered an order that Kim forfeit $95,453.50 and pay restitution of $205,000.
The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William G. Squires, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region; and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Jung Kim owned and operated C&C Market, a convenience store located at 4752 Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore. According to her plea agreement and court documents, the store participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program. In Maryland, the program provides eligible individuals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card called the Independence Card, which operates like a debit card. Recipients obtain EBT cards through the state Department of Human Resources, then use the EBT card to purchase approved food items from participating retailers.
Jung Kim completed the required government form in January, 2005 to become an authorized retailer in the program. Kim received training and instruction regarding the requirements of the food stamp program, including that it was a violation of SNAP regulations to trade cash for SNAP benefits. Nevertheless, from November 2010 through April 2013, Kim routinely exchanged SNAP benefits for cash at less than face value of the EBT benefits, in violation of the food stamp program rules, and kept up to 50 percent of the benefits for herself.
As a result of these unlawful cash transactions, Kim obtained more than $400,000 in payments for food sales that never occurred.
Eight of the 10 convenience store owners or operators who were indicted in September 2013 in connection with schemes to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and/or wire fraud. Ahmed Ayedh Al-Jabrati, age 58, a citizen of Yemen residing in Baltimore, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1.2 million. Amara Cisse, age 50, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $654,349.24, and his wife, Fanta Keita was sentenced to two months in prison. John Cunningham, age 55, of Baltimore, was sentenced to two years in prison. Retailer Hyung Cho, age 40, was sentenced to 38 months in prison, and his mother Dae Cho, age 67, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Chos were also ordered to forfeit $371,439.21 and pay restitution of $1.4 million. Two more retailers were indicted in January 2014.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised USDA’s Office of Inspector General and FBI for their work in the investigation. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein expressed appreciation to Secretary Ted Dallas and the Maryland Department of Human Resources, as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-Office of Fraud Detection and National Security for their assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Judson T. Mihok, Kathleen O. Gavin, and Leo J. Wise, who are prosecuting the cases.