Grocery store owner sentenced to serve federal prison time for food stamp fraud

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Salih Kaya, of West Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to 18 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for committing food stamp fraud at his Hartford grocery store.

The federal food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”), is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households to provide them with the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power.  SNAP recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) card.  SNAP benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible items.  Items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, paper goods and soaps are not eligible for purchase with Food Stamp benefits, and it is a violation of the rules and regulations governing the food stamp program to allow benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items.  SNAP benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances.  The program is designed so that the total amount of each purchase is electronically transferred to the retailer’s designated bank account.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Kaya has owned Green Apple Market, located at 264 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, since it opened on July 1, 2008.  Between November 2010 and March 2014, Kaya illegally exchanged food stamps for cash and other ineligible items with customers at the store.

The FNS estimates that a reasonable sales figure for Green Apple Market, given the size, amenities and location of the store, should be no more than $60,000 per year.  However, during this period, sales for the store totaled more than $2.6 million.

Judge Meyer ordered Kaya to pay restitution in the amount of $1,878,474.84.

Kaya was arrested on June 25, 2014.  On March 5, 2015, he pleaded guilty to one count of food stamp fraud.

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