GREEN BAY - Two Green Bay business owners pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to three charges of letting people use county Food Share cards to buy liquor and tobacco.
In exchange for a guilty plea, 17 other charges against Gurnek and Gurdeep Basanti were dropped.
Michael Hart, the lawyer for Gurnek Basanti, says the welfare investigation against his client and his wife has been difficult for the couple.
"They're torn," said Hart. "They are hard-working people without any prior criminal record at all."
The Basantis were arrested last summer for letting people use QUEST cards to buy alcohol and tobacco at their store. At the time, the store was called Beach Road Liquor.
A QUEST card works like a debit card, allowing qualified low-income residents to buy food under the county's FoodShare Program.
Prosecutors say the Basantis sold the liquor and tobacco to QUEST card users for double the regular price. The couple is also accused of buying the cards for half the amount on them.
Last summer, Green Bay assistant city attorney Jim Mueller told FOX 11 it was obvious something suspicious was happening at the store.
"We learned based on the investigation that the amount of food that was bought with these QUEST cards was similar to a Festival Foods grocery store," said Mueller. "This particular liquor store only had about two aisles of groceries."
A Brown County judge accepted the couple's plea deal. Each Basanti was found guilty of one felony and two misdemeanors for food stamp fraud.
The assistant district attorney on the cases, Beau Liegeois, declined media requests for an interview. He told FOX 11 the state feels the deal is appropriate because both Basantis are in their 50s and have no prior criminal record.
Hart also sees the deal as fair.
"This is a shock to the system to be involved in the criminal justice system, but they understand what they did," said Hart.
The Basantis are scheduled to be sentenced on April 29.
Beach Road Liquor on North Irwin Avenue is now called Dollar Land. The name change happened after the city revoked its liquor license.
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