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08/30/2018

State Inspector General Files Felony Charges in Food Stamp Trafficking Case

 

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Harrisburg, PA – In a case that began with a citizen complaint, the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General [OSIG] filed felony charges against Anjum A. Awan for trafficking in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] benefits and access device fraud. Mr. Awan, 46, of Bridgeville PA, used more than fifty (50) different electronic benefits transfer [EBT] cards to buy almost $24,000.00 worth of soda and other food items for the Pittsburgh area grocery store at which he worked.  He paid individual card recipients a fraction of the value of the cards then collected cash reimbursement from his employer for the food he bought with those cards.
 
“This case illustrates two very important points,” said State Inspector General Bruce R. Beemer. “First, SNAP benefit trafficking is a real problem which affects our communities. Our Office is working to target this kind of fraud and increase the penalties for traffickers. Second, the public can, and does, play a crucial role in reporting this kind of trafficking and helping our Office to combat it.” 
 
According to the Criminal Complaint filed by OSIG agents, the Defendant, from at least January of 2016 until February of 2018, paid fifty-four (54) individual SNAP recipients a discounted cash payment for their EBT cards. The Defendant then used those cards at least seven (7) Pittsburgh area stores to buy soda and other food items to stock the grocery store at which he worked. In some instances, Awan bought fifty (50) cases of soda in a single transaction.  Surveillance video recovered from some of the stores shows Awan making these purchases with cards he was not authorized to use.  Awan then submitted receipts for those transactions to his employer and received cash reimbursements.
 
All told, Awan made at least $23,671.24 through this scheme.
On August 20, 2018, Awan was charged with one count of Buying or Exchanging Federal Food Order Coupons [SNAP Trafficking] which is graded as felony of the third degree and one count of Access Device Fraud, also graded as a felony of the third degree. The maximum penalty for each charge is seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
 
The Defendant will be arraigned and a date set for a preliminary hearing. The case will be prosecuted by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.  The State Inspector General thanked the District Attorney and the City of McKeesport Police Department and stated he looks forward to a continuing regional partnership to combat this type of trafficking.
 
All persons charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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