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Document and Benefit Fraud

South Texas grocer pleads guilty to food stamp fraud

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - The owner of a local supermarket pleaded guilty on Wednesday to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamp fraud, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General.

Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 56, the proprietor of the Pariz Dollar Supermarket was arraigned by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Aug. 23. According to court documents, Rezaei repeatedly exchanged Lone Star card benefits from participants in the food stamp program for discounted amounts of cash. Then, he charged the government for the full value of the Lone Star card transaction. Some of those transactions were with undercover federal law enforcement agents.

"Today's guilty plea is an example of the impact we can have when law enforcement combine their expertise," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in San Antonio. "ICE HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate these cases and ensure that those who profit by taking advantage of others face justice for their crimes."

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.

Rezaei has been in federal custody since his arrest in April. He will remain in federal custody pending his sentence which set for Nov. 28. At sentencing, Rezaei faces a maximum of five years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Cano, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.