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THE NATION | IN BRIEF / OHIO

Federal Agent Admits to Theft of $50,000

April 21, 2002|From Times Wire Reports

A federal agent pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $50,000 in evidence used in undercover investigations that targeted grocery stores for food stamp fraud.

Anthony Punka, 46, of Brunswick, the senior agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office in Cleveland, helped investigators arrest three Cleveland grocers who pleaded guilty last month to laundering $15 million through banks in Ohio and the Middle East.

Instead of accepting the stamps for food purchases, the grocers illegally accepted them for cash, paying about 60 cents on the dollar. Punka was supposed to place the money in a safety deposit box in the agency's name at a bank, but he kept some of the money.

It is unclear what Punka did with the money. He faces up to 16 months in prison.

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