Charges were filed Thursday against an Oklahoma City store clerk for trafficking food stamps. When News 9 went to talk to the store clerk, he had no idea he was facing felony charges or that an undercover sting took place in his store.
This was a two-year investigation involving the USDA and Oklahoma DHS. The agencies used confidential informants and the store clerk never knew about it until News 9 asked for his side of the story about the three felony counts.
"I don't know what that meant," replied Nasiruddin Chowdhury.
News 9 explained to Chowdhury the charges were for SNAP benefits fraud.
"Yeah, I understand. Who is that? I don't know who did that," he said.
The probable cause affidavit said Chowdhury was trading SNAP benefits with customers usually at a rate of 50 cents on the dollar at the Bi Rite Market in the 2200 block of NW 1st Terrace in OKC.
For instance, a customer bought a soda at the store and investigators said Chowdhury charged him $150 on the SNAP card for the soda, then gave the customer $95 cash back for participating and they both profit.
The affidavit said Chowdhury did this numerous times dating back to September 2012 involving at least a $130 SNAP transaction on each occasion.
"I'm not nervous, ma'am. I have some evidence, my evidence all in the book here," explained Chowdhury.
Chowdhury revealed a book where he keeps running tabs on customers who cannot pay for food or drinks.
"Some of the neighborhood, they give me their credit. Then when the food stamps come, they pay my bill," Chowdhury said.
When News 9 asked if that was allowed under the law, Chowdhury replied, "I don't know that."
That practice is illegal and it is called trafficking food stamps. The affidavit said investigators interviewed five people who admitted to swapping cash for SNAP benefits at the Bi Rite Market and all of them identified Chowdhury as the clerk they paid.
An Oklahoma DHS spokesperson says our state's Office of Inspector General is one of the most aggressive on food stamp trafficking. They take it seriously as this case reflects.