Springfield store raided as part of alleged EBT fraud investigation

(Western Mass News photo)

Syringes, drug paraphernalia, and alleged fraud involving welfare cards all uncovered at a Springfield convenience store on Thursday.

Our Western Mass News cameras were allowed inside the South End bodega during this raid and Springfield Police showed us what they found after a long investigation.

Earlier today, Dwight Street Extension was blocked off by a number of police cruisers.

Officers searched behind counters and sifted through boxes and found needles, syringes, and packaging materials.

"Especially having kids, that what you want to see....them making sure the neighborhood is getting better, and not letting it get back to what it used to be," said Gabriel Otero of Springfield.

Otero has lived in Springfield's South End for nearly a decade. He was shocked to learn police raided a neighborhood convenience store right down the street from his apartment and uncovered syringes. crack pipes, and alleged fraud involving welfare cards.

"Every once in a while, you would see people standing out there, but it's just like normal. I'm very shocked, very shocked," Otero added.

Mass. State Police, Springfield Police, and the city's C-3 Policing Unit were involved in this investigation.

Officers allowed our cameras inside the Dwight Mini Market Thursday morning to show us what they found behind the store's counter in boxes and tucked away in drawers.

"Needles and syringes, packaging materials for drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, crack, crack pipes...all sold behind the counter here," said Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney.

Springfield Police also discovered this bodega was involved in alleged fraud, using electronic benefit transfer (EBT) - or welfare -cards.

Police said that the store had been making a profit on the taxpayer's dime.

"We're investigating illegal EBT transactions that are taking place. If you have an EBT card loaded with $200, you can come in here and sell it for $100 dollars. They'll give you $100 cash and then they'll do illegal transactions with it all day long. They're making a lot of money off of people that are paying their taxes in this state," Delaney added.

"So many people are actually tried to get it because they need it, but they can't because everyone is taking advantage of it. It is frustrating," Otero added.

Code enforcement shut down the convenience store after a number of building and health violations were found.

Police have arrested the store owner's son, Samuel Diaz, on a number of charges including larceny and public assistance fraud.

Another man believed to be involved - who is also an employee - has been summoned to court.

"It's going to stop from now on. We're going to make sure the South End is a good place to live," Delaney said.

Diaz was arraigned in Springfield District Court Thursday afternoon. Bail was set at $2,000 cash, which was posted Thursday afternoon.

Springfield Police maintain that the case remains an active and ongoing investigation.

CLICK HERE to see more pictures from Thursday's raid.

Copyright 2016 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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