Arraignment set for store owner in alleged food stamp fraud case

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - At least one of three people recently named in a 26 count indictment are to appear in Federal court on Thursday to answer to charges they allegedly defrauded the food stamp program of more than a million.

The case involves a three year time period over which three people associated with a local business allegedly conspired to illegally get money from the food stamp program by engaging in fictional transactions and purchases with food stamp recipients.

The food stamp program is supposed to help individuals and families who qualify buy food, and those who participate in the program are given a card that they can use at authorized stores to buy food.

Goodfellas at 1217 Mill Street was one of those stores, but now the government charges that the owner and two others defrauded the program of large sums of money over a three year period beginning in 2007.

Indicted for conspiracy to defraud the food stamp program are store owner Craig Michael Nash, along with Hillary Nash, III and Rosalyn Mary Hilliard.

The indictment says an undercover operation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that the three engaged in a scheme with unnamed food stamp recipients whereby they used fictional transactions to get money from the program, and allowed customers to buy ineligible items such as alcohol and tobacco.

According to the indictment, the unlawful transactions yielded large sums of money as they were allegedly redeeming between $90,000 and $100,000 a month, for some months.

Craig Nash is set for arraignment on Thursday in Federal court where he will presumably plead not guilty to the charges.

If the Nashes and Hillard are convicted, the government seeks to force them to forfeit proceeds of their illegal activity – which reportedly include nearly three million dollars at a local bank, the store and property on Mill Street, land and structure at 2137 Opelousas and 4312 Suffolk,  three tracts of land and improvements at the southwest corner of Pine and Enterprise and five cars, including a Bentley, Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche.

We visited the Nashes at their store, but at this point they have no comment.

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