18 Indicted in food stamp scam

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Zine Abidine Douh El Idrissi was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas Zine Abidine Douh El Idrissi was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas
Hilal Oraha Haio was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas Hilal Oraha Haio was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas
Elicia Baker was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas Elicia Baker was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas
Guadalupe Gamez-Moreno was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas Guadalupe Gamez-Moreno was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas
Elias Hernandez-Carreno was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas Elias Hernandez-Carreno was indicted in food stamp scheme. By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Eighteen people in the Phoenix area are accused of defrauding the federal food stamp program out of more than $700,000.
   
An investigation began after Phoenix police officers noticed a rise in crime around certain retail locations.

During the 15-month undercover operation, which included state, federal and local authorities, it was determined that food stamp recipients were selling their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to retailers for cash. The retailers were then pocketing the remainder of the card value.

Search warrants were executed Thursday at three Phoenix locations and one in Mesa.

A total of 18 people were indicted but not all have been taken into custody. The individuals arrested have been identified as Zine Abidine Douh El Idrissi, 47, Guadalupe Gamez-Moreno, 23, Alejandro Moreno Torrs, 36, Elias Hernandez-Carreno, 32, Maria Cruz Becerra, 20, Elicia Baker, 59, Brandon Nguyen, 43, Sarhad Kasmarogi, 44, and Hilal Oraha Haio, 40.

Felony charges include unlawful use of food stamps, unlawful use of a credit card, fraudulent schemes, and illegal control of an enterprise and asset forfeiture.

"The interagency efforts between federal, state and local law enforcement officials over the last 15 months have been instrumental in addressing the alleged schemes to defraud the SNAP program," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

"The influx of cash into neighborhoods from the illegal sale of benefits led to an increase in criminal activity," he continued. "Protecting our neighborhoods and cities is a number one priority for me, and I am extremely grateful to law enforcement for bringing these predators to justice."