A Critical Tool to Stop Fraud in Your Community
What is the State Law Enforcement Bureau (SLEB)?
As of 1991, the Division of Public Assistance Fraud has served as the State Law Enforcement Bureau for the State of Florida. SLEB was established to combat the illegal trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits. It is a partnership between the State of Florida and the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) of the US Department of Agriculture. Its purpose is to coordinate and support federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to attack the problem of SNAP EBT trafficking.
What is SNAP EBT Trafficking?
SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) EBT trafficking is the unlawful conversion of SNAP benefits into cash or for other consideration (narcotics, firearms, ammunition or explosives, for example). Purchasing food with SNAP benefits with the intent to sell that food or exchange the food for cash or other consideration is also considered trafficking. Trafficking is a crime under Section 414.39(2) FS and is a felony in Florida.
Most often, EBT Trafficking takes place at a retail store authorized to accept electronic SNAP benefits. A recent federal report found that:
However, trafficking also occurs when a recipient sells their EBT card to another person for cash or some other form of service or work.
Why should my agency become a member of the SLEB?
Investigations into these small markets and convenience stores often uncover small criminal enterprises that have been helping fuel other chronic community problems that plague local law enforcement. Time and time again, investigations into food stamp trafficking have resulted in law enforcement officials obtaining evidence of other criminal activities generated by these stores.
Community markets and convenience stores engaging in multifaceted criminal activities may often be difficult for law enforcement to broach. SLEB can help in establishing a way in. A food stamp trafficking investigation can be an effective means of getting into a store, stopping the illegal trafficking of food stamps and the other criminal activity it spawns.
SLEB can Provide Additional Resources
Through the combined efforts of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and the Florida Department of Financial Services, the SLEB provides any member agency critical resources and data that support their efforts in combating food stamp trafficking and other crime it produces in their jurisdiction. It coordinates efforts between municipal, State and Federal investigative agencies to prevent duplication of effort and protect the integrity of an investigation.
The SLEB also provides member agencies state-issued EBT card(s) with electronic food stamp benefits to be used in covert investigations of stores at which trafficking is suspected. Targeting data, reports on investigative targets, and technical assistance are part of the investigative support resources the SLEB provides.
What does SLEB membership entail?
Becoming a member of SLEB is simple. There is no fee or cost for your agency to become a member. It only requires signing an agreement delineating the requirements for the proper control and use of any issued EBT cards and the coordinating with SLEB on any investigation involving a retailer and/or others suspected of trafficking SNAP EBT benefits. Periodic reports are also needed by the SLEB in order to report investigative efforts to FNS.
Contact us to learn more
State Law Enforcement Bureau email: SLEBInquiries@myfloridacfo.com
Division of Public Assistance Fraud
State Law Enforcement Bureau
200 E. Gaines Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0385
31 People Wanted for Food Stamp Fraud at Gainesville Convenience Stores
December 8th, 2011
After a months long investigation by GPD, USDA and other agencies a multi store food stamp fraud has been uncovered in Gainesville.
Three Gainesville convenience stores were busted for food stamp fraud on September 1st and Thursday police issued 31 warrants related to that bust. Police suspect the stores involved were exchanging EBT benefits for cash. They are also looking into the stores for counterfeit merchandise and tobacco and beverage violations.
The USDA estimates food stamp trafficking defrauds taxpayers of $330 million each year. So on the federal and local level investigators are monitoring EBT patterns.
The owners of SMI are accused of using food stamps to stock their shelves, buying people’s EBT benefits for 50 cents on the dollar.
Police are also going after the EBT card holders and the former owner and clerk at 99 Cents and More, also busted in September.
Police arrested 8 people Thursday and will charge two already in jail and two already in prison...but police are still looking for 19 more, including the former owner of 99 cents and More. They will all be charged with racketeering.
Local clerks arrested
University Food Mart in Arlington was shut down in 2012 when police said clerks Basel Khallaf (seen in booking photo) and George Saeed (not pictured) were caught committing fraud.
Court documents show that during a year-long investigation by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the store was redeeming between $20,000-$30,000 per month in bogus SNAP purchases. Authorities say legitimate convenience stores average $3,000-$4,000 in monthly SNAP purchases.
Kallaf and Saeed were arrested on December 17, 2012 and charged with: financial transaction involving proceeds of unlawful activity (money laundering) $20,000 to $99,999, organized fraud; engages in scheme - obtains property/value $50,000 or more, misappropriate food stamp funds - $200 or more in a 12 month period and dealing in stolen property in Duval County.
Brothers Aghid and Amir Al Theeb (pictured) were also charged with committing EBT fraud in 2012 at their stores Century 21 Food Mart and Century 21 Chicken and Seafood. They redeemed between $12,000-$20,000 in EBT transaction at their stores, while other stores of similar in size and location were redeeming around $2,900 in EBT card purchases.
The brothers were charged and ordered to pay back the money they took.
41 arrests in welfare fraud busts
May 1, 2013
41 suspects were arrested Wednesday on charges of welfare fraud as a result of an undercover sting in Manatee County. The arrests came out of 103 warrants issued as a result of Operation Meal Ticket II by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “We are sending a message that there is major fraud here and we need to do something about it,” Sheriff Brad Steube said.
Among those arrested was one local restaurant owner who police say bought Electronic Benefits Transfer cards he would use to buy restaurant supplies. Investigators also went undercover to buy EBT cards from 55 people.
“Our collaborative work across state, local and federal agencies is key to aggressively pursuing those who commit public assistance fraud and making sure they end up behind bars,” Atwater said in a news release, “Those efforts keep dollars from those who cheat the system and help protect those who need it most.”
The Sheriff’s Office began the EBT investigation in April 2012 with the assistance of the Florida Department of Financial Services. This year’s undercover operation took place in two parts:
The first part focused on Gerald Millas, owner of three restaurants, including Pizza Pros near the corner of 57th Avenue and U.S. 41, on the basis of information received at the end of last year’s operation.
Detectives learned that Millas bought EBT cards for 50 cents on the dollar and used them to buy merchandise at Dollar General on 14th Street West and at the Sam’s Club on 53rd Ave East in Bradenton. Records showed that Millas used 53 different EBT cards at Sam’s Club for a total of 131 completed transactions during a 20-month period from Jan. 1, 2010, to Sept. 28, 2012. Merchandise bought with the cards totaled more than $23,000.
Millas was arrested Dec. 12, 2012, and charged with a third-degree felony and a misdemeanor for social welfare fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and will go before a judge and jury at 9 a.m. Aug. 26.
In the second part of the operation, detectives went undercover to buy EBT cards for 50 cents to 60 cents on the dollar. The typical transaction was $120 for a $200 EBT card. EBT cards purchased by MSO totaled nearly $9,000, which it could not redeem or return. So Manatee Sheriff’s Office used the cards to buy baby formula and donated it to the Food Bank of Manatee County.
Food Mart owners arrested for food stamp fraud
June 19, 2015
PALATKA, Fla. – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Chandeep Sahni, 41, and Arleen Chadha, 40, on charges of racketeering, bank fraud, public assistance fraud and grand theft. The husband and wife own the Palm and Crill Food Mart, located at 3200 Crill Ave. in Palatka.
FDLE began its investigation in February after the Palatka Police Department received a tip. Agents believe Sahni and Chadha routinely traded cash for EBT/SNAP cards paying the cardholder approximately half the value of the card. Over four months, agents conducted numerous undercover operations and received hundreds of dollars in exchange for thousands worth of EBT benefits.
After exchanging the cards for money, the investigation shows Sahni and Chadha used the EBT cards to purchase food and drink items from major retailers to sell in their store. Agents were also able to purchase unauthorized items from the store using EBT cards.
Agents served a search warrant at the Palm and Crill Food Mart this morning and arrested Sahni who was booked into the Putnam County Jail. Chadha was arrested at the couple’s home on Fleming Island and booked into the Clay County Jail. Both are being held on a $1.45 million bond.
Palatka Police Department, Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler County Sheriff’s Offices along with the State Attorney’s Office, 7th judicial circuit, Florida Department of Financial Services, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the United States Department of Agriculture assisted with this investigation.
Four Arrested in $1.3 Million Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
Hundreds more identified in massive Liberty City fraud scheme March 19, 2010
Four people were arrested yesterday in connection with a scheme to cheat the state out of $1.3 million in food stamps. The four were charged with Grand Theft and Public Assistance Fraud following a six-month investigation by the state’s Public Assistance Fraud unit into illegal food stamp trafficking at Partners Meat & Fish Market, located at 1298 NW 62nd Street. Other investigators from the Florida Department of Lottery and the Florida Department of Revenue are looking at additional criminal charges after a search warrant was served at the small Liberty City store.
Food stamp trafficking is the buying or selling electronic food stamp benefits. Investigators say that store owners pay food stamp recipients about 50 cents in cash for every dollar taken from the electronic food stamp benefit card. The cash received from the sale of food stamps is then used for other things to include jewelry, beauty products or quite possibly drugs
Additional arrests are likely as the focus shifts to the hundreds of food stamp recipients suspected of selling their food stamps at Partners Meat & Fish Market. Those who are found guilty face a third degree felony charge and a lifetime disqualification to receive food stamps.
In addition to state charges, the store owners may face federal penalties by the USDA for violating food stamp program guidelines. These penalties may include fines, temporary or permanent disqualification, and forfeiture of property
Large Food Stamp Scam Busted At Florida Convenience Store
April 3, 2013
A pair of convenience store owners in Florida have been busted for allegedly conducting a large food stamp scam and using taxpayer money to stock their own shelves.
Bassam Sale Abu Diab, 55, and his son, Matthew Bassam Abu Diab, 22, bought EBT cards at deeply discounted prices from customers and then turned around and used those credits to buy goods for their store, 4M Food Mart in Daytona Beach, Fla. The father-and-son team bought the cards from sellers desperate for hard cash for between 20 and 40 cents on the dollar. The duo would pay $200, for example, for an EBT card loaded with $500 in credits. Then they used the cards to buy goods at Walmart and Save-A-Lot stores as a way to cheaply supply their own store.
On Monday, after a three-month investigation, the two men were arrested and state and federal agents raided the business. The Diabs allegedly made at least $88,000 through EBT transactions at the store. The elder Diab was previously charged in December with illegally running a pawn shop from the store.
“This guy is running a business on the taxpayers' back,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood “It’s a fraud. He’s unscrupulous and clearly he didn’t learn from the last time we hit the store.”
Food stamp fraud is not a new racket. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the EBT program, nearly 1,400 stores were involved in illegally exchanging food stamp cards in 2012.
The government is cracking down on benefits fraud and has recently signed data-sharing agreements with several states, to track and halt the abuse of government-subsidized benefits.
Florida Sheriff Targets Dozens in $2.8M Welfare Fraud Scheme
December 17, 2013
A two-year sting by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office uncovered $2.8 million dollars in fraud perpetrated by Florida welfare recipients. Authorities said on Tuesday that more than 60 arrests are expected.
Sixty-one arrest warrants were issued on Monday, with 21 people arrested so far and facing federal charges, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said.
"Operation Money Tree" — started after a grandmother called authorities when she learned that the father of her granddaughter traded his electronic food stamp card for money instead of buying groceries for her granddaughter, authorities said.
The cards were allegedly traded at a small grocery store in Palm Springs.
The clerks at the store, however, would give the suspects cash and keep half the profits for themselves.
For instance, if a suspect sought $100, the clerk would charge $150 to the card — handing the cash over the suspect, authorities said.
Davie police arrest one in synthetic cannabis, food stamp fraud investigations
December 19, 2014
Food Mart America, 4201 Davie Rd., Davie at a Sunoco gas station where Davie Police said an investigation into food stamp fraud and the sale of synthetic cannabis was underway Thursday.
Mohmed Belim (Photo courtesy of the Broward Sheriff's Office)
Davie police served a search warrant at a gas station market Thursday as part of an investigation into alleged sales of synthetic marijuana and fraudulent transfers in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the agency said.
Taken into custody at the store were two men: Mohmed Yusuf Belim, 37, of Hollywood, operator of Food Mart America at a Sunoco gas station at 4201 Davie Rd., and store clerk Syed Tariq Mansoor, 59, of Sunrise, Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle said.
Engle said Friday that Mansoor was released from custody after the arrest. Belim was arrested on suspicion of grand theft; misappropriating food stamp funds over $200; possession with intent to sell synthetic narcotics; practicing as an optician without a license; dispensing optical devices without prescriptions and using the title of optician without a license.
He was scheduled to be released on bond from a Broward jail on Friday, according to jail records.
Engle said a typical food stamp fraud happens when a participant in the SNAP program sells a government-issued debit card for less than its value and receives cash, and the buyer uses the card to purchase goods at a profit.
Engle said while the SNAP investigation was underway, detectives learned synthetic marijuana was being sold from the premises.
"In conjunction with other agencies, we made a number of controlled buys of synthetic marijuana from the store," Engle said.