Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Food stamp fraud. Baltimore businesses are accused of swiping millions in taxpayer money. Now the feds are stepping in.
Meghan McCorkell has more on how the scheme worked.
The owners of eight stores were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday, accused of swiping nearly $7 million of your money.
Corner stores across the city are now locked up tight after 100 federal agents raided them Tuesday morning. The owners are accused in a multi-million dollar food stamp scheme.
“The reason taxpayers fund food stamps is to put food on the tables of hungry people. The goal is not to put money in the pockets of greedy criminals,” said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
The stores are accused of accepting food stamp cards in exchange for cash instead of food, then pocketing half the money.
The eight businesses stretch from Northwest Baltimore to downtown–and officials say they’re looking at more.
“We’ve identified several times that number of stores who’ve been involved in suspicious transactions,” Rosenstein said.
Prosecutors say the owner of the Second Obama Express on Harlem Avenue made $2 million off of the scheme.
Erich March, owner of Apples and Oranges Fresh Market, says he’s disgusted by the scheme.
“In reality, you realize they were depriving somebody of food and more than likely, that was honorable children,” he said.
March and his wife opened their store to help people with food stamps get access to healthy food.
“There are a lot of people out here hurting and desperate, and it’s unfortunate that there’s so many folks out here that are willing to take advantage of them,” said Michele Speaks-March.
Now the government is going after stores that are pocketing cash instead of providing food.
Federal officials say the people who misused their food stamp cards could potentially face prosecution or lose their food stamp benefits.
Federal officials pinpointed the eight stores because they were doing a lot more food stamp sales than other similar stores in their neighborhoods.