GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WFRV) After months of intense investigation, charges will likely be filed today against Gurnek Basanti, the owner of Beach Road Liquor.
Investigators were tipped off back in March after noticing suspicious transaction activity. As the investigation unfolded, numerous informants came forward. The case quickly became the largest case of welfare fraud in Wisconsin.
The owner and three of his family members are accused of allowing welfare recipients to use their benefits for purchasing beer, cigarettes, and liquor--items clearly prohibited under the welfare program. When ringing up the purchases, the owner would charge double the value for the items. For example, one customer was charged $14.03 for a $7 pack of cigarettes.
It's further alleged that the owner would often take Quest cards from recipients and use them for personal purchases in exchange for cash. One informant told investigators that she purchased $50 cash from the store, letting the owner keep her Quest card. The owner's family then went to a local grocery store and bought over $108 in personal items.
In the month of May alone, over 365 welfare recipients were involved in nearly 1250 transactions at the store. Because of all the people involved, it took months for investigators to unravel this very complex case.
Brown County Sheriff John Gossage says this case sends a very clear message to others who might be involved in this kind of activity.
"I think that's one of the messages that we need to send out to not only store owners but also to people receiving benefits and using them illegally, is that it won't be tolerated. We will refer charges to the District Attorney's office."
Multiple felony charges will likely be filed today against the owner of Beach Road Liquor and three of his family members. They also could face charges of medical assistance fraud and commercial gambling.
Welfare recipients who knowingly took part in the illegal activity also face possible charges as even more of the investigation unravels.