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Update: Food stamp fraud investigation

By Megan Terlecky, Anchor / Reporter, megan.terlecky@cbslocal2.com
Published On: Nov 16 2012 06:29:53 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 16 2012 08:15:01 PM CST

ONE STOP FOLLOW UP

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

A follow-up on the federal food stamp raid.  The Coachella Valley man arrested says he's not worried about the charges against him.  Haki Dervishi is out of jail, released on bond Thursday.  Federal agents say he defrauded the government about $3.5 million in food stamps.  

We walked up to Dervishi's door in Palm Springs with our camera rolling.  He didn't want to sit down for an interview, but talked to us at his door.

"For me, it's my conscience is clear, by the way I am not worried or anything," said Dervishi.

Dervishi faces charges of illegally trafficking food stamps.  An 11 month long undercover investigation revealed Dervishi bought EBT cards at a discounted rate in exchange for cash.  Dervishi told us that isn't true.

"What they are saying there, I did sell gas, they are saying that I did exchange that that is not true at all and they knew that," said Dervishi.

Throughout our conversation Dervishi didn't seem shaken at all.

"I don't feel bad or anything," said Dervishi.

Federal agents raided his home and his convenience store in Indio Thursday, looking for evidence.  Now, it's a much different scene.  One Stop Shoppe is back open for business, but with a sign on the door saying it is no longer accepting any food stamps.

Alyssa Syrjala, a customer, says, "They are obviously doing something illegal and I don't want any part of that.  Its easier, I can go somewhere else to buy food."

Customers we talked with say they're surprised to hear about the alleged crimes.

"I think that is bad and everything because there is a lot of people that want to buy food," said Belinda Rocha, a customer.

"A lot of people need them to survive.  It helps a lot of people, but a lot of people are abusing it.  It's kind of sad," said Syrjala.
 
But many know Dervishi as a community hero.  He allowed a homeless tent city behind his store until the Bureau of Indian Affairs shut it down.

Teddy Eubanks, a homeless man who lived in that tent city, says, "A very good hearted man that has helped this community, homeless, all of us."

Even in light of these allegations, many still stand by his side.
 
"He helps out a lot of people ya know.  They got him on making a little money, but he gives other people money," said Eubanks.

If convicted Dervishi faces up to 20 years in federal prison.  His trial is set for January.