Fairfielder pleads guilty to illegal use of food stamps

Bridgeport grocery store operator pleads guilty to illegal use of food stamp benefits

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Jamila Aboutayeb, 54, of Fairfield, pleaded guilty in Hartford federal court to one count of unlawful use of food stamp benefits.

On May 14, 2014, a grand jury in New Haven returned indictments charging Aboutayeb and her brother, Khalid Aboutayeb, with engaging in food stamp fraud at the M&J Deli Market, a grocery and convenience store they operated at 988 State Street in Bridgeport.

The federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”) is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households to provide them with the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power. SNAP recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, and SNAP benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible items.

Items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, paper goods and soaps are not eligible for purchase with Food Stamp benefits, and it is a violation of the rules and regulations governing the food stamp program to allow benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items. SNAP benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances. The program is designed so that the total amount of each purchase is electronically transferred to the retailer’s designated bank account.

In pleading guilty, Aboutayeb admitted that she unlawfully exchanged customers’ food stamp benefits for ineligible items and cash at M&J Deli Market between approximately June 2013 and March 2014.

On Dec. 17, 2014, Khalid Aboutayeb pleaded guilty, admitting that he and others unlawfully exchanged food stamp benefits for ineligible items and cash at the store between approximately December 2011 and February 2013.

The investigation has revealed that more than $285,000 in illegal SNAP benefits were redeemed at the store.

Aboutayeb is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on March 23, 2015, at which time she faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, a fine and an order of restitution.

This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice M. Duffy.

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