Police arrest five in food stamp fraud scam


Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Five people are in custody and more than $100,000 has been confiscated after federal agents and metro police raided 10 Indianapolis businesses Tuesday.

Dozens of federal agents and metro police officers busted store owners for allegedly bilking the government out of tens of thousands of dollars with a food stamp scheme.

Police say the majority of the operations were on the east side of Indianapolis. The suspects were accused of selling counterfeit cigarettes and other merchandise and running an elaborate food stamp scam that put cash into the hands of customers and the business owners.

The raid is the result of a two year investigation.  Investigators took the five people into custody at 10 different locations, starting with a small grocery store on 10th Street and Best Price Dollar and Food on 34th Street, along with a house on Emerson.

Eyewitness News tried to talk to them about what happened, but no one was willing to comment.

Federal agents and metro police hit a gas station on North Alabama around noon Tuesday, armed with arrest warrants. They also swarmed a west side grocery store, an east side wireless store and another gas station on North Keystone Avenue. A sign out front advertised that they took food stamps, but inside a handwritten note claimed otherwise.

"These individuals were acting as a fence buying large quantities of cigarettes," IMPD Lt. Jeff Duhamell said. "An individual that had a food stamp card would go in a business, swipe the card for like $100, but wouldn't get $100 in merchandise, they'd take it in cash, splitting it. The cardholder would get $50 and the teller at the store would get $50."

Aside from confiscating more than $100,000, police also took hundreds of counterfeit shoes, some marijuana and a sawed-off shot gun.

Of the five arrested, four face charges for corrupt business practices and several counts of fraud and theft.

Police say thousands of dollars were taken from the federal government every month.