East Harlem Deli Ran $2.7 Million Welfare Scam

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. speaks to the media after a bail hearing was held for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former International Monetary Fund head, at Manhattan Criminal Court May 19, 2011 in New York. State Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus said that Strauss-Kahn, 62, can be released on one million USD cash bail, and placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring -- conditions that had been proposed by his lawyers. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Eight people have been charged with stealing $2.7 million from a government food program.

At the center of the alleged welfare scam is a small deli in East Harlem, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports.

The owner, Yunior Tineo, conspired with welfare recipients who were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides nutritional food to low-income families, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said.

Tineo, 48, and his stepson, Edwin Vargas, 24, who helped manage the Taino Deli at Second Avenue and East 122nd Street, stole nearly $650,000 by charging a customer’s entire balance and then giving them a portion of the cash and keeping the rest, or by selling them cigarettes and alcohol at a large markup and then falsifying the bills, prosecutor said.

“The theft of public benefits is an affront to these critical programs, as well as the individuals they are designed to help,” Vance said in a news release.

Tineo sold the deli in late 2012 to four people for $250,000, and he and Vargas agreed to stay on as employees to coach the new owners on how to operate the scheme, authorities said. The new owners then allegedly stole an additional $2.1 million.

The defendants are charged with sending $100,000 of the ill-gotten gains by wire transfer back to the country of Jordan.

Tieno and Vargas are each charged with grand larceny, misuse of food stamps, conspiracy and falsifying business records.

The four new owners — Menwer Amin, 52, Talal Judah, 56, Samir Joudeh, 50, and Wael Joudeh, 48 — and their business, MN-Suzan Food Corp., were also named as defendants in the indictment and face similiar charges.

Amin’s daughters were also charged. Prosecutors say they worked briefly at the deli and received wire transfers in Jordan (source).

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