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Grocer to Pay for Trading Food Stamps for Cash

(CN) - A Manhattan grocery store owner who swapped food stamps for cash and pocketed some of the money must forfeit $377,799 in ill-gotten gains, the 2nd Circuit ruled.

Mohammed Uddin was sentenced to 21 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Judge Katzmann upheld the amount of the fine on appeal.

Uddin admitted that he exchanged the food stamps for cash and kept some of the money for himself. He maintained that evidence did not show that he had taken more than $5,000. The government estimated his takings at more than $1.25 million.

In making its estimate, the government relied on the testimony of a special agent, who said nearly all of the transactions in excess of $50 were fraudulent, because the amount of eligible food at the store was scarce, dusty and outdated.

The New York-based federal appeals court ruled that the district court had reasonably calculated that 60 percent of the transactions of the purchases of $50 or more were fraudulent, resulting in the $377,799 forfeiture amount.

"Although there will undoubtedly be situations in which a district court's estimate of loss falls outside the boundaries of reasonableness," Katzmann wrote, "it is enough that the district court did not exceed them."

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