Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Feds, Police Raid NYC Stores in Welfare Fraud Crackdown; Dozens Expected to Face Charges

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013  |  Updated 9:17 PM EDT
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More than two dozen store owners across New York City were arrested in a welfare fraud crackdown. Authorities say their schemes netted millions of dollars. Jonathan Dienst reports.

NBC New York

More than two dozen store owners across New York City were arrested in a welfare fraud crackdown. Authorities say their schemes netted millions of dollars. Jonathan Dienst reports.

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Homeland Security Investigations agents and police arrested more than two dozen store owners across the city Wednesday in welfare benefit fraud schemes totaling millions of dollars, authorities said.  

Law enforcement officials say that instead of providing food and necessities, store owners allegedly cashed in Woman, Infant and Children (WIC) benefits and split the money with benefit recipients.

Some store owners allegedly cashed up to 20,000 vouchers per month, taking 20 cents on the dollar, law enforcement officials said. Officials said one store on Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, processed more than 25,000 coupons in one month. 

An average store usually collects about 200 coupons a month, authorities say.

WIC is a nutrition program for low-income women and children. Investigators said some of the small stores allegedly processed more WIC benefits than large supermarkets or box stores.  

Other stores searched Wednesday included one on Fort Hamilton Parkway and on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn. 

In all, 30 people are expected to be charged in connection with the scheme.

Half of those charged are expected to face federal criminal charges; others will appear in state court in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.  

Several suspects were seen being led away from the 72nd precinct by police and investigators from the State Attorney General’s office, which assisted in the investigation.  

 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is expected to announce details of the charges later Wednesday.

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