The owner of a New Jersey grocery store admitted Thursday to committing a $750,000 food stamp fraud scheme over a three-year period while attempting to conceal his involvement in the business, authorities said.
Jamil Bader, 60, of Teaneck, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to one count of committing food stamp fraud with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and faces up to 20 years in prison, NJ Advance Media reported.
Bader admitted in court that he orchestrated a food stamp fraud scheme between September 2013 and September 2016 where he would let those receiving food stamps trade their benefits for cash, while he redeemed a portion of those benefits for himself, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors say he ran a small convenience store in Newark, but placed the ownership of his business in someone else’s name because he had been previously banned from accepting SNAP benefits at his store for carrying out another fraud scheme in the past.
According to prosecutors, he defrauded the federal government out of $754,424 and admitted that he attempted to flee the country by obtaining a foreign passport to avoid the charges against him.
He is due back in court for sentencing November 7.
Food stamp fraud has become a criminal enterprise among convenience store owners trying to make a quick buck, and is one of the ways the federal government loses billions of dollars each year.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2019 found that criminals were responsible for trafficking at least $1 billion in food stamp benefits.
Last March, Florida law enforcement officials busted nearly 200 people on food stamp fraud charges while they carried out an undercover law enforcement investigation.
But the federal government is also figuring out ways to stop food stamp fraud in its tracks, by closing loopholes that would allow people— including criminals— to take advantage of multiple welfare programs without going through background checks.