Operator of Two Convenience Stores Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Food Stamp Fraud
Four Other Retailers Have Been Sentenced to Between Two and 38 Months in Prison
March 25, 2014 — BALTIMORE, MD—U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced Ahmed Ayedh Al-Jabrati, age 58, a citizen of Yemen residing in Baltimore, today to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash. Judge Quarles also ordered that Al-Jabrati pay restitution of $1.2 million.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William G. Squires, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region; and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Al-Jabrati operated two convenience stores, Second Obama Express and D&M Deli and Grocery, located next door to each other at 901 Harlem Avenue in Baltimore. According to their plea agreements and court documents, the stores participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program. In Maryland, the program provides eligible individuals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card called the Independence Card, which operates like a debit card. Recipients obtain EBT cards through the state Department of Human Resources, then use the EBT card to purchase approved food items from participating retailers.
Al-Jabrati knew that it was a violation of SNAP regulations to trade cash for SNAP benefits. Nevertheless, from October 2010 to July 2013, Al-Jabrati exchanged SNAP benefits for cash at less than face value of the EBT benefits, in violation of the food stamp program rules, and kept up to 50 percent of the benefits for themselves.
Judge Quarles determined today that Al-Jabrati obtained at least $1.5 million in payments for food sales that never occurred.
Eight of the 10 convenience store owners or operators who were indicted in September 2013 in connection with schemes to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and/or wire fraud. Amara Cisse, age 50, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $654,349.24, and his wife, Fanta Keita, was sentenced to two months in prison. Retailer Hyung Cho, age 40, was sentenced to 38 months in prison, and his mother, Dae Cho, age 67, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Chos were also ordered to forfeit $371,439.21 and pay restitution of $1.4 million. Two more retailers were indicted in January 2014.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised USDA’s Office of Inspector General and FBI for their work in the investigation. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein expressed appreciation to Secretary Ted Dallas and the Maryland Department of Human Resources, as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services-Office of Fraud Detection and National Security for their assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, who prosecuted the case.