Arizona

Aug 29, 2013 1:45 PM by Faye DeHoff

Food stamp sting nets 3 arrests in state's largest seizure

PHOENIX - Three people have been arrested in the largest-ever seizure in an undercover food stamp operation, according to Attorney General Tom Horne.

51-year old Kameel Sweiss, 22-year old Ameer Sweis and 33-year old Faday Sweiss, all worked at K & S convenience store in Phoenix. They have been charged with Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, Money Laundering, Unlawful Use of Food Stamps and Computer Tampering.

At 8:30 Wednesday morning, SWAT units of the Phoenix Police Department entered the store and Sweiss' Peoria home. Some of the evidence seized included $32,876 in cash and the key to a private bank vault that held $550,480 in cash. Additional evidence seized included bank records and accounts, extraneous food stamp cards, business ledgers and three vehicles.

"This business was stealing taxpayer money by allowing a person with a food stamp card to purchase something small, such as a bag of chips, and then overcharge that card to make a fraudulent profit," said Attorney General Horne. "This seizure is the largest in our state's history with regard to food stamp fraud and should serve as a strong warning to those who continue to engage in these kinds of illegal actions."

The probable cause arrests come after months of a coordinated undercover operation involving the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix Police Department (PD), United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, and Arizona Department of Economic Security. The Arizona Department of Revenue took part in the search of the store in an ongoing and separate investigation.

"The Office of Inspector General at USDA remains committed, alongside our law enforcement partners, to investigate individuals and retailers involved in the trafficking of food stamp benefits in exchange for cash," said Paul Feeney, Deputy Counsel for the Office of the Inspector General.

All three defendants had their initial appearance in front of a judge Wednesday night. In addition to $100,000 bonds, all three are required to surrender their passports as a condition of release. They judge added that if any of the defendants post bond they will have to wear an ankle monitor.

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