North Providence man charged for food stamp fraud

North Providence man charged for food stamp fraud

PROVIDENCE – Mashhod Afzal, 25, a North Providence resident who works at the Stop & Go convenience store in Providence, was named in a federal superseding indictment returned by a grand jury on Wednesday, Sept. 18, charging him with conspiracy, food stamp fraud and lying to a federal agent, according to U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha.

Stop & Go was one of five convenience stores previously identified in court records as locations where store owners and employees were allegedly participating in conspiracies to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

On Sept. 5, Neronha announced the findings to date of an ongoing two-year investigation which uncovered more than $3 million of alleged fraud of the food stamp program in Rhode Island. He announced at the time that criminal charges had been filed in federal court against nine Providence convenience store owners and employees.

It is alleged in court records that a pattern of conspiracies and SNAP benefits abuse was revealed when federal law enforcement undercover investigators visited area convenience stores, examined thousands of documents, bank records and tax filings, and reviewed information and evidence seized during the execution of court authorized search warrants at several businesses on April 1.

It is alleged in court documents that store owners and/or employees allowed SNAP benefit recipients to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to exchange their SNAP benefits for cash, a violation of the program’s laws and regulations. In return, the defendants added a surcharge to the recipients’ withdrawal of SNAP benefits, usually an amount equal to that of the amount of cash benefit received by the recipient. SNAP benefit funds are transferred electronically directly to accounts managed by the retailer.

An indictment is an allegation and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The fraud cases are being prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Providence by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra Hebert and Richard Myrus.