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2 charged with stealing $20 million in SNAP benefits from NYC bodega

Dawood Kassim, 31, and Dia Alqalisi, 26, allegedly allowed SNAP recipients to exchange their benefits for cash or noneligible goods like beer at Throop Farm Market in Brooklyn.
A sign noting the acceptance of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards
A sign notes the acceptance of EBT cards at a grocery store in 2019.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Two people have been charged with stealing millions of dollars in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program out of a New York City bodega one of them owned. 

Dawood Kassim, 31, and Dia Alqalisi, 26, are accused of having made thousands of transactions through SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, out of a bodega in Brooklyn that Kassim owned, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a news release Tuesday.

Typically through the SNAP Program, which uses federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households, recipients use electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, cards to make purchases for household needs and food. 

From April through December 2022, Kassim and Alqalisi allowed SNAP recipients to exchange their benefits for cash or non-SNAP-eligible goods like beer at Throop Farm Market in Bedford-Stuyvesant, prosecutors said. In turn, the men kept part of the benefits for themselves as payment, they added.

Kassim also stole SNAP benefits from “unsuspecting victims” by using counterfeit and stolen SNAP EBT cards at the bodega, the release alleged.

“The victims of the defendants’ crimes included recipients of SNAP benefits residing in Tennessee, Virginia and California, among other states,” prosecutors said.

In total, through such trafficked and stolen transactions, the duo received more than $20 million in federally funded SNAP benefits, including over $7 million worth of SNAP benefits from accounts of recipients living outside New York. 

They were arrested Tuesday morning and charged with SNAP fraud, access device fraud and unlawful monetary transactions, according to an indictment.

It was not immediately clear whether they have retained attorneys.

Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the defendants "illegally" profited from benefits intended for "those in need of nutritious meals — which is especially vital in these times of high food costs."

“The arrests today should be a wakeup call to those who think government programs are a piggy bank they can pillage without fear of consequences,” he added.