(07/11/12) - Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton is taking a strong stand against food stamp abuse.
Wednesday, he charged the owners of several Genesee County businesses with fraud.
He says the three bought bridge cards from people to purchase food for their restaurant and catering businesses.
Abuse like this is a 10 year felony.
Prosecutor Leyton says it won't be tolerated.
"Whatever abuse is out there, we are coming after you if you're part of it," Leyton said.
Owners of Chip's Shrimp and Fish and Chip's Supper Club who have locations in the Flint area, are accused of buying bridge cards from people, then using the card to buy food and supplies for their restaurant and catering business.
"The scheme is believed to involve tens of thousands of dollars worth of benefits and more than 40 identified individuals who sold their cards," Leyton said.
51-year-old Reginald Clements, owner of Chip's Shrimp and Fish and Chip's Supper Club, and 63-year-old Paul Verdun could see up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Also charged is 54-year-old Beverly Biggs-Leavy, who at the time operated a catering business out of her home, but has now opened Beverly's Place in Flint on Dort Highway near Court.
The investigation started two years ago when the office of inspector general was tipped off.
Prosecutors say that tip came from Beverly herself, who called to complain that the bridge cards she was trying to use was reported stolen.
That's when investigators delved deeper to uncover what was really going on.
"If individuals think they can profit in a business by the use of bridge cards for improper purposes, then they are sadly mistaken. We will investigate and prosecute them," Leyton said.
Two years ago, ABC12 News profiled Verdun and Clements for opening a second location of Chip's Shrimp and Fish.
"Victims are the residents of the State of Michigan, that's who suffers, I want to make that clear," Leyton said. "Tax payers are cheated and the honest abiding bridge card holders have their reputation tarnished."
Business owners could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutor Leyton says more charges are possible in this case.
ABC12 Main Station