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Quincy store owner gets 2½ years for food stamp fraud

A Quincy store owner has pleaded guilty to defrauding the state’s food stamp program by dispensing cash to food stamp recipients — when he was only supposed to sell them food — and taking a cut for the service, according to the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

Pat Lu, 49, of Quincy was sentenced Thursday in Norfolk Superior Court to 2½ years in jail followed by 10 years of probation and was ordered to pay $285,000 in restitution. Lu’s charges include larceny over $250 and procurement fraud.

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The fraud on the program, which is officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, occurred at Pat’s Mini Mart, the convenience store Lu owned. Lu had authorization to accept SNAP benefits for eligible items, but he abused the program for financial gain, prosecutors said.

Lu allegedly dispensed cash to people who had credit on their electronic benefits cards, rather than selling them food. He took a cut of the money for himself.

Lu also made illegal transactions by accepting SNAP benefits for cigarette purchases, prosecutors said.

The scheme, which began in October 2010 and ended in April 2012 when Lu was arrested, produced an estimated $800,000 in false transactions. Lu received an estimated $30,000 a month by scamming the program, prosecutors said.

Lu was indicted in July 2012 after more than seven months of investigation by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the attorney general’s office.

Jasper can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com or on Twitter @Jasper_Craven
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