Riverhead couple pleads guilty to food stamp fraud

01/12/2015 8:50 PM |
ATTORNEY GENERAL COURTESY | Ravinder Parkash, 59, pleaded guilty to a food stamp scam Monday, reports state. His wife also reportedly pleaded guilty.

ATTORNEY GENERAL COURTESY | Ravinder Parkash, 59, pleaded guilty to a food stamp scam Monday, reports state. His wife also reportedly pleaded guilty.

A Riverhead couple accused in 2013 of stealing more than half a million dollars in a food stamp scam pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court on Monday.

Ravinder Parkash, 62, and his wife Prabha Rani, 60, pleaded guilty to several charges, including grand larceny and misuse of food stamps, the New York State attorney general’s office said in a statement Tuesday.

Mr. Parkash also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for his role in the scheme.

According to the attorney general, the couple’s scheme involved illegally trading cash for roughly $668,000 in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, the attorney general said.

As part of their guilty pleas, Mr. Parkash and Ms. Rani admitted that between April 2010 and May 2013 they conspired with dozens of food stamp cardholders to process phantom SNAP transactions at their gas station and convenience store without selling any food, according to the statement.

The office said the couple paid SNAP recipients half the value of their SNAP benefits in cash, then charged the United States Department of Agriculture the full value of the phony transaction and kept the difference.

Mr. Parkash then laundered the proceeds of the illegal scheme through a bank account set up for New York State Lottery sales at the store, according to the attorney general.

Mr. Parkash faces 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison and Ms. Rani will be sentenced to 60 days in jail and 5 years probation. Their business, the gas station and convenience store next to the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, will be dissolved.

The couple will also pay $566,000 in restitution, according to the reported terms of the plea agreement.

The Parkashes were among roughly 20 Suffolk County residents arrested in June 2013 as part of an 18-month investigation into food stamp fraud. Police raided the couple’s gas station, confiscating security cameras and information regarding food stamps, witnesses told the News-Review.

The couple is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

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