PHOENIX – According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, three men were arrested on fraud charges in Phoenix when authorities broke up a massive food stamp fraud ring and seized almost $700,000 in cash.
The three men, named Kameel Sweiss, Ameer Sweiss, and Faday Sweiss were workers at K&S convenience store. Phoenix police raided the convenience store early Wednesday and also searched the suspects’ home in Peoria later. Turned out that 51-year-old Kameel Sweiss was the father of 22-year-old Ameer Sweiss and 33 year old Faday Sweiss. Police seized thousands of dollars in cash along with three vehicles, ledgers and accounts, bank records and extraneous food-stamp cards. They seized $32,876 in cash and a key to a private bank vault that held $550,480 in cash.
The three men were arrested on several charges, including suspicion of illegally conducting an enterprise, fraudulent schemes and artifices, money laundering, unlawful use of food stamps, and computer tampering. Their arrest came after a months-long undercover operation run by the Phoenix Police Department and federal and state law enforcement agencies including the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security. As part of a separate ongoing investigation, the Arizona Department of Revenue took part in the search of the store.
The K & S convenience store, located on 27th Avenue near Bethany Home Road, was owned by the father where he was involved in the alleged scheme with his two sons. Authorities reported that the men overcharged food-stamp cards, and in some instances gave cash back to the cardholder in exchange for whatever value remained on the card.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said that this was the largest seizure related to food-stamp fraud in Arizona history. Grisham said that “People were essentially selling their cards to (the) store.”
According to the Arizona Attorney General, Tom Horne, there are certain convenience stores where one can go with their food stamp card, get some cash and use it to purchase items at the store, like alcohol, drugs, etc. instead of using their card to get food. The convenience store gives the customer some cash in addition to the items they purchased but they will keep their card, which they use to keep ringing up as though they are sales during the day. Eventually, the store owner ends up with extra cash at the end of the day.
Only some convenience stores are willing to do this kind of exchange, so people go to those stores to trade most of the value of their card for cash. Attorney General also said that the convenience stores who are willing to do this are major criminals and they have already arrested quite a few of them along with 22 customers. He also said that the Sweiss will be hit with a lot of felonies that they have been charged with to make an example and let people know that they can’t be doing this because they will eventually end up in prison.
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