Arrest made in investigation into EBT misuse - FOX 35 News Orlando

Arrest made in investigation into EBT misuse

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Prakash Muanubhai Patel had nothing to say as he was led out of his Cocoa convenience store in handcuffs.   

Patel is accused of stealing thousands of dollars in welfare benefits through the improper use of EBT cards at Mike's Shop and Save, located at the corner of Fiske Blvd. and Peachtree St.

"We believe in the 2-and-a-half years they've been looking at this store, they've done over $367,000 in fraudulent transactions,"  said Officer Barbara Matthews with the Cocoa Police Department. "That's taxpayer money we'll never see again."

Cocoa police officers, along with several state and federal agents, raided the store Wednesday morning after they said they observed Patel accepting the EBT cards for purchases on everything from beer and cigarettes to synthetic marijuana, or "K-2."  

"You had to ask for it.  It was kind of hidden behind the counter," Officer Matthews said in reference to the K-2.  

And that's not all.  Investigators said both Patel and some of his customers were cashing in on the EBT cards.  

"They will sell them the EBT card.  He pays either 25 cents or 50 cents on the dollar.  He keeps the card and every month when the card is 're-upped' then he has the money at his access," said Officer Matthews.  "He randomly swipes it throughout the week, so it looks like someone was shopping,"

Investigators said they received tips about possible fraudulent activity and they also noticed some "red flags" on EBT usage.  

"A store this size is supposed to do about $1,500 a month.  They were doing anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 a month," said Officer Matthews.

Patel, 38, is charged with charged with social welfare fraud, money laundering, racketeering, fraudulent use of a credit card and sale of synthetic marijuana.   Investigators said they will be tracking down the people whose names are on the EBT cards used at the store to see how they may be involved.  They added that more arrests could be coming.

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