A couple from Wayne was charged for their alleged role in a $4 million food stamp fraud scheme run out of a Paterson grocery store, according to authorities.
Ibrahim Zughbi, 64, and his wife, Miriam Zughbi, 59, were charged with food stamp benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, authorities said. Authorities additionally charged Ibrahim Zughbi with money laundering.
Authorities said from January 2014 to present, the couple ran the Jamaica Meat Market on 10th Avenue. From the store, the couple exchanged more than $4 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash between 2014 and 2017.
There was a high volume of food stamp redemption at the store that suggested fraud. Authorities sent a confidential source to verify. This source made 16 purchases at the store where one or both business operators exchanged money for SNAP benefits.
Ibrahim Zughbi was previously permanently disqualified from participating in the SNAP program in 2011 for violations. His business was run out of the same location under the name “Neighborhood Supermarket.”
Another person took over the business and changed the store name to Jamaica Meat Market, authorities said. This individual certified in writing to the United States Department of Agriculture which runs the food stamp program that Ibrahim Zughbi would have nothing to do with the business or its participation in the program.
Ibrahim Zughbi continued to run the store and exchange cash for SNAP benefits, authorities said. Bank account for Jamaica Meat Market, where the federal program makes payments to the store, shows $471,000 in payments to Ibrahim Zughbi and various family members not connected to the business.
The couple faces 20 years in prison for each offense, authorities said.