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Food-stamp scam couple from Riverhead, corporation admit guilt

Left: Ravinder Parkash, 59, owner of Shivani Enterprises

Left: Ravinder Parkash, 59, owner of Shivani Enterprises Inc., in Riverhead, is charged with grand larceny, money laundering, misuse of food stamps (more than $50,000), falsifying business records and conspiracy. Right: Prabha Rani, 58, of Riverhead, is charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, misuse of food stamps (more than $3,000) and conspiracy, according to an indictment. (June 27, 2013) Photo Credit: NYS Attorney General

A Riverhead couple and their corporation pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than a half-million dollars from the federal government in a food stamp scam.

Ravinder Parkash, 62, his wife, Prabha Rani, 60, and Shivani Enterprises Inc. all admitted taking part in a conspiracy starting in March 2012 in which the defendants paid two dozen people cash for half the value of their food stamp benefits, and then reimbursed themselves for the full value by submitting phony purchases to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program.

By the time they were caught in May 2013, they made more than $566,000 off the scheme, state Supreme Court Justice John Collins said Monday as he outlined the terms of their plea deal. In return for their pleas, the couple and the corporation will pay full restitution.

In addition, Parkash will be sentenced on March 10 to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, and Rani will be sentenced to 60 days in jail and 5 years' probation.

The corporation, which owns a gas station and convenience store next to the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, will be sold.

The defendants admitted their actions in response to questions by Assistant Attorneys General Rhonda Greenstein and Tyler Reynolds. Parkash pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, second-degree money laundering, misuse of food stamps and other charges. Rani pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, misuse of food stamps and other charges. The corporation pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, 24 counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and conspiracy.

Prosecutors declined to comment afterward.

In a prepared statement, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said, "Food stamp fraud is a direct betrayal of the trust of New York taxpayers and those who must rely on this important government program to feed their families."Richard Langone of Garden City, the attorney for Parkash and Shivani, said they "admitted they made a mistake. It was something they learned from others."

Rani's attorney, Byron Divins Jr. of Garden City, said, "They'll put it behind them."

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