Federal agents conducted a search and seizure on a “fish market” at the Hialeah flea market in Opa-locka, Fla., and made the largest food stamp fraud bust to date.
The raid occurred on the shop during the morning hours of May 11, which is where the agents say the owners exchanged food stamps for cash, stealing millions of dollars from the government at the expense of taxpayers.
“The illicit schemes announced today involved a total of more than $13 million in the loss. This is the largest food stamp fraud takedown in U.S. history,” U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer said during a press conference.
Ferrer explained that the businesses, which claimed to be selling fish, were actually exchanging people’s food stamps for money—and keeping a cut for themselves. The seafood signs were misleading, as the stores sold not an ounce of food.
Officers uncovered boxes upon boxes of evidence, which will likely be used against the 28 suspects apprehended—7 remain on the loose, according to a WSVN report.
Twenty-two suspects are facing federal charges for illegally redeeming food stamps for cash. Six suspects have been charged with statewide offenses for their alleged receipt of illegal payments.
According to the report, citing Palm Beach County Police, more than 500 residents of Palm Beach County had their identities stolen from this illegal exchange.
Titled “Operation Stampede,” the Hialeah raid was one of 11 fraud busts in the Miami-Dade county.