Cameron Park residents upset by Food Stamps for cash scheme

Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, Gabriel Garza, Juan David Fernandez,

Cameron Park residents told Action 4 News that they are upset that a local supermarket owner was running a Food Stamps for cash scheme in their community.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested the Parviz Sheik Rezaei, Gabriel Garza and Juan David Fernandez on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury had recently indicted the three in a Food Stamp fraud case worth $3.9 million dollars.

The three were charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy, food stamp fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transaction business.

During a Wednesday afternoon hearing, a federal judge denied bond for all three men until their arraignment and bond hearing scheduled on Friday afternoon.

Rezaei owns and operates "Pariz dollar supermarket" and "Pariz Dollar Supermarket and Meat Market" Cameron Park.

According to court documents, an undercover investigation revealed that Rezaei, Garza and Fernandez were making a nice profit by exchanging Food Stamps for cash.

Neighboring taxpayers like Maria Gonzalez were less than happy when they heard about the scheme.

She said she saw federal agents at the store on Tuesday.

"Oh yea it's upsetting, Gonzalez said. It's very upsetting. Because I work hard for my money. My husband works hard for his money and then for people to turn around and do this it's not fair for us.

If convicted, the three men face up to 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 dollars in fines on the different charges.

Action 4 News spoke with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reported that there are 397,261 recipients for Food Stamps and other related programs in the Rio Grande Valley.

Those recipients collect a total of more than $47.6 million dollars in benefits.

The overwhelming majority of those benefits are used honestly but if anyone suspects fraud or abuse, they TMre asked to report it to officials.

Anyone suspecting Food Stamp fraud is asked to call the Texas Office of Inspector General at (800) 436-6184 or fill out the on-line report abuse form on their website.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Recipients (Fiscal Year 2011)

Cameron Hidalgo Willacy Starr Total Valley # of Recipients 122,400 243,217 7,119 24,525 397,261 $ value of benefits $14,347,153 $29,747,186 $811,708 $2,784,671 $47,690,644 Source: USDA