Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that Muhammed Farooq, 49, of Somerset has been arrested and charged with first 1st degree money laundering, 2nd degree theft by deception and 4th degree Food Stamp fraud.
Following a joint investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations multiple search warrants were executed this morning at approximately 9:00 AM in connection with an eight-month Food Stamp fraud investigation.
It was determined that over the course of 2 1/2 years approximately $5.2 million worth of fraudulent electronic Food Stamp transactions occurred at four Dollar Stores owned by
Farooq, who is originally from Pakistan. During the transactions he would allow Food Stamp patrons to purchase non food items such as electronics.
“The Food Stamp program is designed to help people in need. Any allegation of an abuse of the program will be investigated by this office,’’ said Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor Walter Dirkin, director of the ECPO Financial Crimes Unit.
Warrants were executed at Dollar Stores located at 729 Broad Street in Newark; 771 Broad Street in Newark; 829 South Orange Ave in East Orange; and 119 Broad Street in Elizabeth.
A search warrant was also executed at Farooq’s home in Somerset, where he was arrested.
During the searches in excess of $150,000 in cash was recovered, six computers, electronic Food Stamp machines and business records, according to Assistant Prosecutor Dirkin.
The suspect was processed and transported to the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. Bail was set at $250,000 by the Honorable Joseph Cassini, III, J.S.C.
Farooq’s first court appearance is scheduled for May 22. The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is urged to contact Det. James Ventola of the ECPO Financial Crimes Unit at 973-266-7223.
These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they plead guilty or are found guilty in a court of law.