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News Maryland Baltimore County Catonsville

Sentencing begins in convenience store food stamp fraud cases

Two Korean citizens have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a food stamp fraud scheme and may face deportation, the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore announced this week.

The cases were part of a food stamp fraud sting that implicated 10 convenience store owners in the Baltimore area in September. Authorities said the defendants, eight of whom have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud or wire fraud so far, would illegally redeem food stamps in exchange for cash.

Hyung Cho, 40, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 38 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and his mother Dae Cho, 67, of Catonsville, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Cho's, who operated K&S Market, a convenience store at 3910 West Belvedere Avenue, were both ordered to forfeit more than $371,000 and pay restitution of $1.4 million. They did not have legal immigration status, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and have "agreed not to object to any proceedings that may be brought to remove them from the United States upon completion of their sentence."

Authorities said the Cho's would keep 50 percent of the food stamp benefits for themselves in the illegal transactions, and that they were typically exchanging an estimated $25,000 to $30,000 worth of food stamp benefits in about 50 transactions a day.

The Cho's were the first to be sentenced. The owners of convenience stores in Park Heights, Harlem Park and Carrollton Ridge are awaiting sentencing, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

cwells@baltsun.com

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