Former Youngstown businessman sentenced to prison for food stamp fraud

Investigators say Breaden Market, a convenience store in Youngstown, was part of a food stamp fraud ring.

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WYTV) – A former Youngstown convenience store owner was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for nearly $2.8 million in food stamp fraud.

George Rafidi, 62, was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Friday.

Rafidi will serve his prison sentence after he completes a 94-month sentence for using a firearm to assault federal agents. Rafidi was convicted of that crime following a jury trial in which evidence showed he pointed a gun at federal agents and local police who were investigating food stamp fraud at his Lordstown home.

“SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, and retailers who prey on the poor by illegally purchasing SNAP benefits erode public trust in the program. As we conduct investigations throughout the State of Ohio, we appreciate the support of our federal and state law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s long-term commitment to prosecuting SNAP fraud,” said USDA-OIG Special Agent in Charge Anthony Mohatt.

Rafidi operated the former Breaden Market since 2010. The USDA began investigating the store after audits revealed the store redeemed more than 10 times as much in benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as larger stores in the area, according to court documents and testimony.

Agents learned Rafidi exchanged food stamps for cash and allowed them to be used to purchase prohibited items such as alcohol and tobacco. On some occasions, agents reported that people lined up outside the door to exchange food stamps.

Rafidi was also ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million in restitution and forfeited more than $23,000 in cash as part of the investigation.

A store clerk and 29 food stamp recipients, who each received at least $5,000 in cash, were also prosecuted.