Seattle business owner admits to $1.5 million food stamp fraud

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by CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @cjingalls

KING5.com

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 30 at 5:40 PM

SEATTLE -- The owner of a small Seattle herb store walked into a federal courtroom Wednesday morning and pleaded guilty to defrauding the food stamp program.

Elsa Kwong agreed to pay back more than $1.5 million that she improperly obtained from the federal food program. She also forfeited $140,000 cash and two expensive automobiles.

Kwong was charged last fall after Seattle Police and the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, raided two businesses at 12th Ave. South and South Jackson Street.

Charging documents showed Seattle Chinese Herb and Grocery had around $100,000 in inventory in its store, yet it submitted more than $1.5 million in food stamps to be redeemed by the USDA.

Before Kwong’s arrest last year, the KING 5 Investigators documented how the store was paying food stamp clients half the value of their food stamps in cash, and then making a profit by redeeming them for full value from the taxpayer funded food stamp program.

Follow the entire investigation with the Their Crime, Your Dime series.

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