Stanislaus County store owner sentenced to 3 years in prison for food stamp fraud

FRESNO, Calif. -  

Mark Edward Powell, 63, of Empire, was sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii to three years and one month in prison for defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food stamp program of more than $1 million, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced today.

According to court documents, Powell owned and operated Santa Fe Discount, a mini-market in Empire that accepted food stamps through the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card system. Contrary to the policy established for participating merchants, between April 2009 and August 2011, Powell would “cash out” EBT cards for cash rather than for eligible food products as required. Powell required the EBT cardholders to purchase some over-priced food products and then he would give the remaining dollar amount on the card in cash and keep a percentage for himself. As a result, Powell defrauded the USDA of $1,001,000.

This case is the product of an investigation by USDA-OIG and the U.S. Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Z. Carbajal III is prosecuting the case.

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