The owner of a gas station on Williamson Street in Madison was charged last Tuesday with illegally using FoodShare cards to buy merchandise to sell in his store.
A criminal complaint charged Mavi Kuldip Singh, owner of Willy Street Mini Mart on 1130 Williamson St., with felony trafficking food stamps and misdemeanor public assistance fraud. An employee, Jeff D. Joe, faces the same charges but a lesser degree of the food stamp trafficking charge.
FoodShare recipients allegedly sold some of the balance on their cards to Singh for cash until the owner realized he was under investigation. Some FoodShare card owners told investigators they usually got back less than 50 cents on the dollar for the balance that was on their cards.
The complaint describes transactions made on the cards between April 2019 and April 2021. FoodShare benefits spent on the eight cards by Singh, Joe or others associated with the store totaled $18,960.
FoodShare cards allow low-income Wisconsin residents to buy nutritious food. Investigators found that Singh used about 26 of these cards to make bulk purchases of soda, milk and bottled water at Woodman’s grocery stores between August 2020 and January 2021.
One FoodShare recipient said her ex-boyfriend sold the balance on her card at the Willy Street Mini Mart every month. The recipient claims she didn’t even know she had a card until Dane County told her she had state health insurance and FoodShare.
The investigation found that the only phone numbers used to check the balance of her card over the span of a year belonged to Singh and Joe.
Another recipient said he believed Singh was taking advantage of people by taking all of the benefits off of their cards and only giving them half of their value. The man said he unknowingly received COVID-19 benefits on his card, but Singh used them all without telling him.
In an interview with 27 News at his Williamson Street gas station, Kuldip Singh said the other man who is criminally charged, Jeff Joe, is responsible for the fraud. "He was using my phone and buying stuff," Kuldip Singh said.
But transactions and surveillance footage from Woodman's stores showed Singh using FoodShare cards to make purchases. Singh told 27 News that he bought a small number of food stamp cards from a handful of people who owed him money.
Singh denies allegations that he purchased FoodShare cards, claiming his business of 12 years is run without food stamp trafficking. "Not here, never here," he told 27 News.
Singh and Joe are scheduled to appear in court on April 4.