BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The owner of a south Texas grocery store was sentenced Tuesday to nearly four years in federal prison for defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamp fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.
Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 56, the proprietor of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen who sentenced him to 46 months in federal prison in addition to a supervised release term of three years following his prison term. The judge also ordered him to pay a restitution fee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $2,499,999.
According to court documents, Rezaei pleaded guilty on Aug. 23, 2011. He admitted that he repeatedly exchanged "Lone Star" card benefits from participants in the "food stamp" program for discounted amounts of cash. Rezaei then charged the government for the full value of the Lone Star card transaction. Documents filed in the case established Rezaei participated in illicit transactions with federal law enforcement agents working in an undercover capacity.
The federal food stamp program was renamed SNAP in 2008. The program allocates federal funds to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In 1995, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission began using an electronic benefit transfer system to more effectively deliver SNAP benefits to program participants. Instead of paper food stamps, participants receive electronic benefit transfer cards known as Lone Star cards.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Cano, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.