The co-owner of a Mastic grocery store pleaded guilty Thursday to a $1 million, two-year scam to trade food stamp benefits for cash, the state attorney general's office said.
Sajjad Rashid, 43, of Rocky Point, is expected to get 11/2 to 71/2 years in prison at his May 19 sentencing in exchange for pleading guilty before State Supreme Court Justice John Collins in Riverhead to the four-count felony indictment: second-degree grand larceny, misuse of food stamps and two counts of first-degree falsifying business records, officials said.
Rashid, who also managed the store, masterminded a scam in which food card beneficiaries were recruited for phony sales transactions charged to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, known as SNAP. From 2012 to 2014, the store and the recipients would split the cash, and the state would reimburse the store for fake purchases made with the SNAP benefits card, officials said.PhotosRecent LI mug shotsDataLI crime stats
Rashid's attorney, Lance Lazzaro of Brooklyn, declined to comment.
The corporation, Mastic Supermarket, also pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and agreed to repay $974,619 and dissolve, authorities said.
The corporation's attorney, Jim Druker of Garden City, said at least 12 people will lose their jobs and that it's not clear if the money can be repaid if the business has to close.
"If you shoot me in the head, you're not going to get any money out of me next month," Druker said. "It seems a shame to dissolve an ongoing business. I don't know who wins when that happens."
But he called it the "best deal" he could reach with the attorney general's office.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declined to comment about requiring the business to shut down.
Investigators saw a spike in SNAP transactions at the store after state officials boosted benefits 50 percent for areas ravaged by superstorm Sandy, state officials said. The Mastic store rang up more than $564,000 in SNAP benefits in just 10 months, while nearby stores totaled $14,000 to $24,000, they said.
"Mr. Rashid's scheme not only ripped off taxpayers, but also the many New Yorkers in need who depend on food stamp benefits, specifically those harmed by Hurricane Sandy," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
Last month, Haricharan Malhotra, a clerk at the grocery store, was sentenced to 11/3 to 4 years in prison on third-degree grand larceny. The other store co-owner, Manjeet Chadha, 48, of North Bellmore, pleaded guilty in December to misuse of food stamps and is awaiting sentencing.
The case stems from an investigation started in 2013 by the U.S. Agriculture Department and Schneiderman's office. They were assisted by Suffolk and Nassau police, the state Department of Financial Services, Suffolk County Social Services Department and the Suffolk district attorney's office, Schneiderman's office said.