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      Three arrested in Food Stamps for cash case in Cameron Park

      Juan David Fernandez

      It was a simple scheme: customers would go inside two Cameron Park stores and trade in their Food Stamp benefits for cash.

      But an undercover federal investigation ended with the business owner and two employees behind bars for $3.9 million dollars in Food Stamp fraud.

      A federal judge unsealed a 19-page and 45-count indictment against businessman Parviz Sheikh Rezaei on Wednesday.

      Investigators allege that Rezaei and employees Gabriel Garza and Juan David Fernandez ran the multi-million dollar scheme between January 2007 to March 2011.

      The three men are accused of charges ranging from conspiracy, Food Stamp fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and money structuring to operating an unlicensed money transaction business.

      The Allegations

      According to the indictment, Rezaei owns two Cameron Park store: the Pariz $ Supermarket off Delia Avenue and the Pariz $ Supermarket & Meat Market off Carlos Avenue.

      Both stores were licenses to accept Food Stamps but an undercover investigation revealed Rezaei, Garza and Fernandez would pay cash for Food Stamps.

      Undercover agents documented several instances where the three would pay $100 to $400 dollars in cash for $129.99 to $518.55 in fraudulent Food Stamp transactions.

      Federal agents documented that the store made $3,953,857.40 in Food Stamp transactions between January 2007 and March 2011.

      Investigators followed the paper trail and allegedly uncovered a series of suspicious bank transactions from the company TMs checking account.

      According to the indictment, the men had a 23 percent profit margin.

      Court Appearance

      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents booked Rezaei, Garza and Fernandez into the Cameron County Jail on Tuesday.

      All three men appeared before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Felix Recio in Brownsville at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

      Judge Recio denied bond for the three men until their Friday afternoon arraignment and bond hearing.

      Court records show that Rezaei is an Iranian national while Garza and Fernandez are American citizens.

      Both Rezaei and Garza live in Brownsville while Fernandez lives in Santa Rosa.

      According to the indictment federal officials are seeking the forfeiture of about $3.1 million dollars in real estate, assets and cash.

      If convicted, the three men face five to 20 years in federal prison and $5,000 to $500,000 dollars in fines for the different charges.