Store employees accused of trading food stamps for cash and drug - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Store employees accused of trading food stamps for cash and drugs

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PHOENIX -

A store employee was arrested and three more were detained after an undercover sting determined they were selling more than food.

Investigators say the store basically stole $1 million of tax payer money by trading food stamps for cash and the illegal drug known as spice.

This happened at the Dollar Dayz General Store near 19th Avenue and Buckeye.

The Attorney General's office tells us if you break it down, the suspects took in about $120,000 a month in food stamp business -- that's more than most convenience stores make and investigators say there were only two aisles of food inside.

The crime scene tape went up at Noon Wednesday -- the same time a special assignment unit of the Phoenix Police Department raided the store.

"We understand that this particular owner and some of the employees here would take the debit card that is typically issued by D.E.S.  They would take that card and exchange it for cash.  For some of these people, that would come in basically 50 cents on the dollar," said Sgt. Steve Martos.

Undercover officers have been watching the place for months.  Police say exchanging food stamp cards for cash on multiple occasions -- transactions that are illegal.

"This individual or employees here are exchanging cash for some of these cards.  Where this cash is going to..obviously, we believe perhaps to illegal type of activity, which affects the immediate neighborhood.  In addition to that, we are talking about tax payer money," Martos said.

The evidence inside, according to police is overwhelming: cash, bank records, food stamp cards and business ledgers.  The people involved will face several charges.

"Some of the charges at this point are illegally conducting an enterprise, fraudulent schemes, money laundering, unlawful use of food stamps and computer tampering at this point," added Martos.

Police are still looking for persons of interest in this case. 

This was a multi-agency operation which included the office of the Inspector General, Phoenix Police, the Attorney General's office and the Department of Economic Security.  This is the second store to be busted for food stamp fraud in 2013 by this inter-agency group that calls themselves Strikeforce: Quest after the Quest food stamp card.

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