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Man Sentenced For Stealing $2.6 Million Worth Of Food Stamps Across North Texas Stores, Officials Say

“These defendants callously preyed on the needy, disabled, and elderly. My heart breaks for them,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton.
Man Sentenced For Stealing $2.6 Million Worth Of Food Stamps Across North Texas Stores, Officials Say

DALLAS — A man who admitted to defrauding thousands of people via a scam involving food stamps has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors say.

James Peabody, 34, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced on Tuesday, officials say. The judge presiding over the case called the crime “one of the most disturbing schemes” he’d seen during his time on the bench.

The SNAP program uses federal tax dollars to subsidize food and household needs for low-income families. Typically, recipients of SNAP program benefits use electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, cards to make purchases for household needs and food.

“I can only imagine the devastation these victims felt at the cash register when they attempted to pay for their groceries and discovered their accounts had been emptied,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton.

The scam also involved two others — Saybah Keihn, 48, and Margretta Jabbeh, 43, who have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Peabody, Keihn, and Jabbeh opened several African food stores and received SNAP merchant privileges, officials say.

They then used EBT cards programmed with stolen SNAP account information – illegally obtained by placing so-called “skimming” machines at point-of-sale terminals in stores throughout the country, according to court documents. The scammers would take the fraudulent benefit transfer cards and use them at their own food stores.

“As a result of the scheme, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which administrates SNAP) deposited more than $2.6 million in bank accounts associated with their stores,” the attorney’s office said in a Wednesday news release.

Multiple victims of the scam testified at the sentencing hearing, held Tuesday, according to the news release. One victim said she resorted to eating out of dumpsters. Another victim thanked the FBI “for investigating my case when no one else seemed to care.”

Keihn was sentenced to 108 months in prison, and Jabbeh was sentenced to 129 months.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office – Fort Worth Resident Agency and the USDA Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation along with the Bedford Police Department, the Blue Mound Police Department, the Euless Police Department, and the North Richland Hills Police Department.

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