State Department of Human Services agents used a simple sting operation over and over to uncover food stamp fraud at stores throughout Oklahoma County, court records show.
Agents posed as store customers with food stamp cards. Most often, they asked clerks for cash back from the cards. Sometimes, they used confidential informants. The cards are not supposed to be used that way.
In one typical transaction, a grocery clerk in February gave an undercover DHS agent $100 from a $200 card "purchase" that didn't actually take place, the agent reported.
The sting operation by the state DHS has been under way since at least April 2009, the records show. Arrests began Wednesday.
The investigation has resulted in 26 arrests so far, a DHS spokeswoman said Friday. A few more arrests were planned.
In some cases, an informant worked out deals with convenience store clerks to get cash in exchange for soda bought with the food stamp card at a different store, records show. One clerk paid the informant $45 for soda pop bought elsewhere for $104, an agent reported.
In another case, a clerk allegedly borrowed a food stamp card, used it to buy $181 in food for his own use and paid the informant $101, the records show.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday made public the identities of two indicted Oklahoma City convenience store owners.
Muluneh Zeleke, 54, is accused in one indictment of cheating the food stamp program out of $1,224,888. He was identified as the owner of Z&Z Convenience Store at 2445 N Martin Luther King Ave.
Muhammad Zahid, 28, of Edmond, is accused in a separate indictment of cheating the food stamp program out of $652,614. He was identified as the owner of Ghani Mart at 2719 NE 23.
Others who were arrested from the sting operation could face felony charges in Oklahoma County District Court, officials said.
Most of their names and the stores involved were disclosed Friday in arrest records.
Food stamp sting
The names and stores included in the sting, according to the records, are: