FAIRFIELD, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County business is at the center of a food stamp fraud ring busted by taskforce agents.
Seven people named in a federal criminal complaint Wednesday are accused of using U.S. Beef in Fairfield to illegally transmit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards in exchange for cash and drugs.
In total, 14 arrest warrants have been issued for people charged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, illegal use of Food Stamp benefits, theft of public money, money laundering and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, according to U.S. Attorney, Carter Stewart.
Defendants named in the complaint are managers, sales representatives and contractors at U.S. Beef. They used U.S. Beef's meat delivery trucks, bank accounts and sales registers in the scheme, documents state.
A lengthy 18-month undercover investigation found that between Dec. 2011 and May 2015, Butcher Food Shop Distributors LLC and U.S. Beef Cincinnati LLC in Fairfield engaged in illegal/fraudulent Food Stamp transactions, according to officials. Records show that approximately 8,145 suspected fraudulent transactions were completed for a total of $1.1 million.
"This may be one of the largest, or larger operations in Ohio that has taken place today," Jones told reporters on Wednesday.
Investigators say the scheme involved the purchase of stamps at fifty cents on the dollar, then turned around and cashed in for 100% reimbursement from the government.
Investigators say that scheme paid off for the accused big time.
"High end lifestyles. A lot of cash. A lot of cash on hand, and a lot of money being made," said Harold Torrens with the Ohio Investigative Unit.
The ringleaders, Torrens told FOX19 NOW by phone on Wednesday, cleared nearly a $10,000 income each week, with what he calls Las Vegas-style spending habits. One home raided was being rented for $3,700 a month, said investigators. Nice vehicles like a Corvette, a Hummer and a Cadillac Escalade were among several vehicles seized.
"These people live high lifestyles. Nice cars. Nice homes," Jones said.
Initial court appearances for the suspects are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday. They include, Steven E. Mueller, Joseph Raymond Gray, Jeffrey C. Knab, Andrie Lamarr Scott, Francis E. Racicot IV, Rici Lynn Hopkins, Christopher Doane, Scott Andrew Traum, Joey Lightcap-Traum, Dalton Andrew Traum, Keith Blankenship, Gregory M. Brown, Jordan A. Kaiser and William N. King.
Of the 14 warrants issued, investigators say they had 13 of those in custody as of Wednesday evening.