Police uncover food stamp, baby formula fraud at JD's Mart
Surveillance video shows a series of undercover stings at JD's Mart at 23rd and Kentucky Streets that began in May of 2014. The footage captures store manager Hameeda Begum purchasing what she admits she thought was stolen baby formula.
"What turned up was more important than the stolen merchandise," said Prosecutor Jeff Cooke of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
It uncovered a larger scheme. Police found 93 debit cards for food stamps.
"What a lot of these little stores do is they trade cash -- 50 cents on the dollar -- for the monthly benefit," Cooke said.
Cooke said small stores can steal taxpayers' money through food stamps and fake purchases of their own merchandise. They double-dip and resell the baby formula to paying customers. Meanwhile, the person who is supposed to have the card, uses the cash sometimes to purchase alcohol and drugs.
Begum confessed to her role in the food stamp fraud Monday and pleaded guilty in Jefferson Circuit Court.
"She has no prior criminal history," said Nader Shunnarah, Begum's attorney while navigating a deal.
The store manager faced nearly 100 theft and fraud charges but was given three years of diversion, meaning no jail time.
Back at 23rd and Kentucky, the doors are locked and the lights are off. If the store reopens it can no longer accept EBT or WIC benefits. The owners will have to pay a $20,000 fine. Cooke said he hopes the conviction sends a message to others involved in copy cat crimes, both customers and companies.
"That message is we will prosecute food stamp fraud," he said.
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