Madison store owner pleads guilty to illegally buying FoodShare perks cards and gets probation

The Williamson Street gas station and convenience store owner has been permanently banned from accepting FoodShare public assistance cards at his businesses after pleading guilty on Thursday to illegally purchasing the balance of cards to cardholders looking for quick cash.

Mavi Kuldip Singh, 65, agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor counts – unauthorized use of a public assistance voucher and two counts of knowingly trafficking food stamps – and was sentenced to two years of probation, with 90 days in jail suspended on each count hanging over him if his probation is revoked.

Singh owns the Willy Street Mini Mart, 1130 Williamson St. In March, Singh and an employee, Jeff D. Joe, 68, of Madison, were charged with welfare fraud for illegally purchasing FoodShare cards from recipients, which should only be used to buy food. The cards, purchased for less than their value, were then used to buy bulk inventory for the Singh store at Woodman Groceries.

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Charges against Joe are still pending.

A criminal complaint says people who sold some of their FoodShare card balances to Singh told investigators the store had become well known in the neighborhood as a place to get quick cash, until Singh realizes he was under investigation and stopped making cash purchases.

In court Thursday, Circuit Judge David Conway said that while it’s not a crime you see very often in the justice system, it’s “up there on the severity scale of offense, Mr. Singh, because you know better.

Conway said the program represents “ill-gotten funds” for Singh at the expense of people who needed the FoodShare program for food but instead used the money to fuel addiction.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Conway said.

Conway accepted the plea deal as offered by Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey and Singh’s attorney, Michael Short, despite initial skepticism about whether the case should end in misdemeanor convictions and no prison sentence.






Singh


DANE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE


As part of his sentence, Singh was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $18,000. He repaid $10,000 and must pay at least $4,000 a year or face a 60-day jail term.

Singh also agreed to a permanent ban from participating in the FoodShare program as a vendor or customer. Short said that due to the location of his Williamson Street store, in an area where many FoodShare customers live, this will be a “major concern” for Singh going forward. Convictions in the case could also affect Singh’s city and state licenses, Short said.

Singh declined to speak in court. But Short said that at the time the scheme occurred, between April 2019 and April 2021, Singh’s store was often the target of thieves. He said Singh told him that when he called the police for help, they never came.

Singh’s participation in the FoodShare program, Short said, was due to frustration at a homeless encampment in nearby McPike Park, which Singh blamed for the thefts at his store. Short said there was no evidence Singh participated in a similar FoodShare card scheme at any other store he owns.