Police uncover food stamp, baby formula fraud at JD's Mart - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Police uncover food stamp fraud at JDs Mart

Police uncover food stamp, baby formula fraud at JD's Mart

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A convenience store manager confessed Monday in connection to a year-long investigation into a food stamp fraud scheme that turns baby formula into cash.

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.

"How many?" asks Begum in the video.

"I've got 20," says the customer -- a man Begum doesn't realize is an undercover informant.

The informant returns to the vehicle with investigators after approximately 10 minutes with $60 from Begum. He said, "That [EXPLETIVE] is so cheap. She wouldn't even give me $10 more and a pack a of cigarettes."

The investigators identify themselves in the video as loss prevention workers from Kroger. Prosecutors said stolen baby formula has been a continual problem for the grocery chain. The informant is a person who was caught shoplifting and offered a deal. Prosecutors said the suspect avoided charges by revealing where and how he sold the baby formula.

Investigators captured the same scheme with the same informant at least four times -- in some instances, the convenience store hadn't even removed the Kroger label from the formula.

Finally, last summer, there was a raid. 

"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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