Pair indicted in Schenectady food stamp probe
Father, son accused of paying 50 cents on the dollar
SCHENECTADY A father and son arrested over the summer and accused of essentially trading cash for food stamp benefits at a State Street business have now been indicted.
The two face more than a dozen counts between them for the alleged scheme at the father’s business, Cheese Bakery and Grocery, 1007 State St.
Son Elvin Singh, 27, appeared Monday morning in Schenectady County Court and pleaded not guilty to the counts against him.
County Court Judge Karen Drago continued Singh’s previous bail, but added a new restriction ordering Singh to remain in one of four local counties. He is also to be supervised by the county Probation Department.
His father, Vishnunarine Singh, 57, of Ozone Park, was arraigned Friday and also pleaded not guilty. His bail was increased to $25,000, an amount he has since posted.
As a result of the alleged scheme, more than two dozen others were also arrested on various charges related to accusations they misused their food stamps. Others were not charged criminally but could face loss of their benefit privileges if found to have traded their benefits.
“The allegations are that essentially both of these individuals would take food stamps and give cash back roughly at the rate of 50 cents on the dollar,” prosecutor Deanndra Macomber said later. The store would keep the other half of the food stamp money. Little to no food would change hands, officials have said.
The father and son each face a total of one count each of misuse of food stamps, second-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree conspiracy, felonies.
The father also faces six counts of first-degree falsifying business records while the son faces three counts.
They are accused of perpetrating the scheme from early 2010 through the date of their arrest on July 24, 2013.
The individual falsifying business record allegations are each tied to specific dates from April to July 2013.
Food stamp cards are similar to debit cards and are intended to help low-income families buy food. They carry restrictions on what can be purchased. Lottery tickets, tobacco products and alcohol are among the items that can’t be purchased, officials have said.
Elvin Singh was represented in court by attorney Michael Horan. Vishnunarine Singh is represented by attorney Adam Parisi.
Horan said after Monday’s arraignment that his client denies the charges. Elvin Singh did not work for his father’s grocery, but had a mobile phone business in the same building.
Parisi could not be reached for comment.