Bryan Cohen Aug. 2, 2013, 7:55pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced a lawsuit Thursday against a Bridgeport store owner who allegedly obtained electronic benefit cards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy inventory for his store.

Saaid Cherkaoui, doing business as Slim's Deli Market, allegedly used hundreds of trafficked and/or unauthorized electronic benefits transfer cards for the SNAP program to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods from BJs Wholesale stores between March 1, 2011, and at least Oct. 6, 2012. The alleged scheme was in violation of federal and state law.

The SNAP program is a federally funded food sustenance program giving assistance to low-income families and individuals at risk of undernourishment. SNAP benefits are provided to authorized beneficiaries using the EBT cards, which act like a debit card to buy groceries. While SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy non-food items like alcohol, the cards or card numbers are sometimes sold by beneficiaries for alcohol, drugs or cash.

"The alleged misuse of these benefit cards diverts taxpayer nutrition assistance funds from those who need it most - especially children -- and is an abuse of public trust," Jepsen said. "The state also has an interest in assuring an honest marketplace, in which economic activity is conducted without fraud or deception."

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of $5,000 for each alleged violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and the disgorgement of all revenues, profits and gains Cherkaoui may have earned from the alleged scheme.

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