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Bridgeport Market Owner Used Food Stamps to Stock Store: State

Saaid Cherkaoui, who runs Slim’s Deli Market, is accused of obtaining EBT cards from authorized recipients and using them at BJ’s Wholesale Club

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    The state of Connecticut is suing a Bridgeport grocery and convenience store owner accused of using hundreds of food stamp accounts to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of energy drinks, candy bars, beef jerky and other products that he sold at his store.

    Saaid Cherkaoui, who runs Slim’s Deli Market, is accused of obtaining EBT cards from authorized recipients and using them at BJ’s Wholesale Club, where he bought products at a discount.

    State officials said the scheme began as early as March 1, 2011 and continued until Oct. 6, 2012  He’d swipe card after card at the self-checkout to pay for the products, then resell the items at his store, according to the complaint the state filed against Cherkaoui.

    “The alleged misuse of these benefit cards diverts taxpayer nutrition assistance funds from those who need it most – especially children -- and is an abuse of public trust,” Attorney General Jepsen said in a statement. “The state also has an interest in assuring an honest marketplace, in which economic activity is conducted without fraud or deception.”

    The program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a federally funded food sustenance program that provides assistance to low-income individuals and families at risk of undernourishment.

    Benefits are distributed through an Electronic Benefits Transfer, which can be used like a debit card to buy groceries, but not cigarettes or alcohol.

    At times, people who receive the federal benefits have sold the cards for cash, drugs or alcohol, according to state officials.

    The state is seeking civil penalties of $5,000 for every violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and disgorgement of all revenues, profits and gains Cherkaoui might have realized from the alleged scheme.

    More information will be posted once it becomes available.

    The Department of Social Services investigated the case and operates a fraud reporting hotline at 1-800-842-2155. If you have a case to report, you can also e-mail providerfraud.dss@ct.gov.