Feds: Busch's Country Corner owners committed millions in food stamp fraud

Rest of market remains open
Posted at 11:12 AM, May 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-11 00:01:11-04

CINCINNATI -- The owners of a Findlay Market butcher shop committed millions of dollars in food stamp fraud over the course of eight years, according to the federal search warrant that led to a raid on the business Thursday morning. 

Authorities taped off Busch's Country Corner at about 11 a.m. to take photos and videos of the vendor's food and collect evidence, which the search warrant said included financial records, security camera recordings and electronic communications.

The shop, which specializes in chicken, turkey and other smoked meats, is operated by husband-and-wife duo Amanda and Michael Busch, according to Findlay Market's website. They bought the stand in 1997; according to federal documents, they began "the trafficking of SNAP EBT benefits in exchange for cash" around January 2010 and earned about $3.5 million from the scheme over the course of the next eight years.

Michael Busch's brother, Randall, was also involved, according to investigators. The trio could face charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit wire fraud, unauthorized use of food stamp benefits, theft of public money, access device fraud and wire fraud.

Authorities from Ohio Investigative Unit, USDA, Office of Inspector General and Cincinnati Police Department were also at the scene. According to the search warrant, investigators spent 15 months tracking illegal exchanges at the Findlay Market location and others.

Food stamp fraud cost taxpayers about $560 million last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Catching the perpetrators takes time and money.

RELATED: Who's minding the store when it comes to retail food stamp fraud?

"We use all the resources that have been given to us to investigate as best our agency can," investigative agent in charge Adam Johnson said.

This investigation began in April 2017, when a confidential informant came forward saying SNAP EBT benefits were being traded for cash, according to documents filed by authorities. 

Investigators said they found Busch's Country Corner conducted an average of about 2,167 individual SNAP EBT transactions each month between October 2010 and March 2018. Comparable companies averaged 868 transactions per month. Busch's monthly average totaled $60,151, compared to a monthly average of $21,807 in similar businesses.

All three targets of the investigation are residents of Sunman, Indiana, according to the search warrants. Authorities also executed two search warrants at homes there Thursday.