EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSFOOD STAMP FRAUD
from Eyewitness News Online
Council Deems Building "Public Nuisance"
Reported by: Darrah Wilcox
Web Producer: Bethany Simmons
Reported: Apr. 24, 2012 8:34 AM EDT
Updated: Apr. 24, 2012 6:25 PM EDT
Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia
Council voted unanimously Monday night on the measure deem Sunoco on 20th Street, most recently known as the All In One, a public nuisance. "I mean we want to give everyone the benefit of a doubt, but at times, at some point the government has to step in and do something about these nuisances," says council member Mark Bates.
That store was the focus of numerous crime investigations including food stamp fraud. There were reportedly more than 600 police calls and criminal incidents in that time frame. After police and federal agents raided the business in February, those calls have reduced a reported 80-90 percent. Bates says, "To the best of the police department's knowledge, we haven't displaced it somewhere else."
Federal and state agents shut down the store back in February for allegedly abusing the state's new food stamp program.
Four people -- Abe Eloirzazi, Stephanie Pauley, Cynthia Gibson, and Abe Owayda were all arrested for their part in the alleged scheme earlier this year.
Pauley plead guilty in federal court just last week. Prosecutors say she and two co-defendants, one of them her husband and the former owner of the All In One, redeemed close to $130,000 worth of illegal food stamp benefits at that store between June 2010 and January 2012.
Eloirzazi, Gibson, and Owayda are all awaiting trial. Pauley will be sentenced in July.
Bates says, "Folks were concerned for their kids to be outside playing. There were concerns for people even driving by the property."
Now, Christy Cabell feels okay letting her eight children play outside. "It has changed for the better. I definitely feel safe for my kids to come out and play now."
Folks are anxious to see something else go in at that spot... Some options they've thought of include a new, safer food mart. Chataun Courts says, "It's getting ready to be summertime. They got popsicles, pop, something for the kids to snack on while they're outside playing."
Cabell and her two girls, Corrina and Nakiyah, say a park would be good for the neighborhood. "We want a park. Something for the kids. Some kind of activity center or something."
If anything does replace the old food mart, these neighbors just hope it's safer and cleaner.
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