BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - In early June, an investigation -- dubbed Operation Meal Ticket -- was prompted by information from actual EBT cardholders who told police they were able to go into a convenience store, and for a fee, get cash from the cards.
These cards, which are regulated by the Florida Department of Children and Families, are food stamps that can only be used to buy food.
While some EBT cards do have cash benefits, none of these people were in possession of cards that were eligible for it.
During the initial investigation, Boynton Beach Police served search warrants at four convenience stores in the city that fraudulently gave cash to undercover officers using fictitious EBT cards.
They also arrested four store owners and employees on the charge of public assistance fraud, a third degree felony if the amount of fraud was more than $200 in 12 consecutive months.
After the initial arrest, police were able to obtain additional information which lead to Thursday's arrest of 35-year-old Marwan Ghali, an interested party/property owner and 63-year-old Radi Gadi, business owner of the EZ MARKET in Boynton Beach.
Both Gali and Ghali are charged with (1 count) Racketeering, (1 count) Keeping a Gambling House, (62 counts) Public Assistance Fraud and (10 counts) Moving unstamped Cigarettes.
Based on the findings during this investigation, at approximately 10 a.m. Thursday, officers with the Boynton Beach Police Departments Community Action Team along with a representative from the Alcohol Beverage Tobacco (ABT) served a search warrant at the aforementioned business for the arrest of the above subjects.
The subjects were also issued with an order suspending their beverage and tobacco license as well as their Palm Beach County Tax Collector Business Receipt.
In addition, the subjects were served with an order authorizing a RICO Lien Notice on the Property.
ABT representative advised that they will be seeking an administrative case regarding the alcohol and tobacco license.
The Boynton Beach Police Department would like to thank the ABT, ASA Ryan Kelley and everyone else that assisted in closing the doors to this business.
Click here to report public insurance fraud or call (866) 762-2237.