Three Rock Hill convenience store operators could face prison time after pleading guilty in federal court to years of food stamp fraud that adds up to more than $5 million, court records show.
Li Fang Phu, Hoang Long Huu Nguyen and Dianne Margaret Phu each recently pleaded guilty to a single indictment in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, federal records show. The records also show they faced six counts earlier this year.
The three pled to defrauding the U.S government Department of Agriculture from 2009 through this year. The department operates the food stamp program.
The retailers exchanged cash for food stamp benefits and also accepted food stamps for purchases of cigarettes, beer and gasoline, the indictment alleges. Retailers are authorized to accept food stamps only for food. Food stamps purchases are supposed to be used with a direct transfer card and intended for low- and middle-income families. The debit cards replaced paper stamps in 2002.
Examples cited in the indictments in federal court records showed purchases of close to $60 in which customers bought as little as a single pack of cigarettes or a pack of cigarettes and a single can of beer.
The stores involved are Daily Express Mart on Wilson Street in Rock Hill and Gas on the Spot, which is no longer in operation but was on South Cherry Road, at the intersection with Heckle Boulevard.
Sentencing will happen sometime in 2017, federal prosecutor Jim May said.