Federal investigation at a gas station - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Federal investigation at a gas station

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Many residents in Southeast Rochester were surprised Tuesday morning at what looked like a crime scene at the Apollo Convenience store on 4th Street SE and 11th Avenue. In fact, it was part of a federal investigation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For about two hours Tuesday morning, the entire perimeter of this gas station was cordoned off as Rochester police and USDA investigators carried out a search warrant. The owner of the store says the investigation is a complete shock.

Confused faces as neighbors gathered to see what was going on at their local convenience store.

"I was very surprised."

Store owner Ari Kolas was just as puzzled when officers cordoned off his gas station with police tape.

"I actually thought I had hit the silent alarm button by accident and the police were coming for that," exclaims Kolas.

But it was not just Rochester police officers.

"We are not the lead agency," explains Captain Brian Winters with the Rochester Police Department.

Investigators with the United States Department of Agriculture have been looking into this case for several weeks. And it all has to do with Food Stamps.

"The essential allegation is, as I understand it, is that those cash cards, or those cards are being used fraudulently," explains Winters.

Those cards are known as Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, and they work like debit cards for buying food in the Food Stamp program. Police indicated they were investigating the possible cashing of these cards.

"We're investigating it. We're trying to get to the bottom of it and see what that employee was doing," says Kolas.

Kolas says investigators are looking at just one employee, not the Apollo company or himself. And he says he doesn't think this will hurt his business.

"We try to be a good community member. We've been here for 20 years at this location. We live here, we are kind of the community gas station/grocery store, we are part of the neighborhood, and I'm sure the customers will understand. And one employee does something, and we'll go from there."

Kolas says investigators did question him, as well as two other employees, but there were no arrests. As for the particular employee in question, Kolas says he will likely not have a job there anymore. We'll keep you updated as we learn more about the investigation.

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