EMPIRE — An Empire convenience store owner on Monday pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal food stamp program of about $1 million by cashing out electronic benefits transfer, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Federal prosecutors said Mark Edward Powell, 63, of Empire, defrauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food stamp program from April 2009 through August 2011.
Powell owned and operated Santa Fe Discount, a mini-market that accepted food stamps through the EBT card system. The prosecutors said Powell required the card holders to purchase some over-priced food products, then he would give the remaining dollar amount on the card in cash and keep a percentage for himself.
Powell is scheduled to be sentenced March 18. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and mandatory restitution.