SEATTLE

Federal authorities and Seattle police have arrested three people and raided two grocery stores as part of what they describe as an undercover investigation into food stamp trafficking.

The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release that the investigation focused on Seattle Chinese Herb and Grocery in the International District. The store allegedly hire "runners" to approach people who had just received their food stamp debit cards, ran the cards for a set amount and then paid half that amount in cash to the recipients, who didn't get any food.

Prosecutors say the store claimed more than $2 million in food stamp redemptions from July 2009 to July 2010, the vast majority of them fraudulent.

Arrested were the store's owner, 46-year-old Elsa Ma Kwong, and two women accused of being runners. They faced initial court appearances Tuesday but have not entered pleas.


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