Prison sentence for storekeeper who trafficked in food stamps

A federal judge has sentenced a Twin Cities man to nearly three and a half years in prison for food stamp fraud.

Khaffak Sahib Ansari of Arden Hills pleaded guilty last year to trafficking food stamps. He operated a small grocery store in St. Paul where USDA inspectors say he processed about $3.1 million in food stamp debit card transactions over four years.

That's ten-times the average for stores of similar size, says U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney. She says investigators found Ansari often gave customers cash back from their food stamp cards.

"We don't see a lot of them. We don't prosecute a lot of them," Cooney said. "This one warranted federal prosecution because of the amount involved as well as the period of time that the fraud scheme covered."

But it is an offense that the Justice and Agriculture departments take seriously, especially with the poor economy, Cooney said.

In addition to his prison sentence, Ansari must pay back $2.4 million.

"We have to make sure that federally-funded programs are used properly, and those who choose to defraud those programs, as was the case here, will be vigorously prosecuted," Cooney said.

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