This was a BIG Fraud Operation…
and Not The Only One…
In what the Justice department is calling, “the largest combined financial fraud loss for a food stamp trafficking takedown in history,” 12 people were arrested when police and federal agents stormed locations in Florida that have been responsible for defrauding the American taxpayer of over $20 million, and maybe much more.
The four cases involve “eight small convenience stores,” according to special agent in charge U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of the Inspector General, Karen Citizen-Wilcox.
She stated, “These retailers created an illegal benefits exchange system that defrauded the American taxpayer and denied healthy foods to needy children and their families. The store owners who allegedly orchestrated this trafficking scheme pocketed millions in ‘fees’ which they charged for converting food assistance benefits into cash.”
Who Would Do Such a Thing???
The people arrested for the scheme are Hasan Saleh, 59, Mohammed Alobaisi, 37, Reynold Francois, 38, Ihab Hassouna, 44, Mohammad Alteen, 33, Maria Jerdana, 36, Joe Ann Baker, 56, Yousef “Joe” Homedan Zahran, 60, Omar Hajje, 43, Jalal Hajyousef, 42, Andy Javier Herrera, 24, and father Javier Herrera, 49.
Some of these criminals owned and operated stores that were allowed to collect Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) payments, while others used point-of-sale terminals at stores not authorized to accept that form of payment.
Apparently, the store would charge the electronic debit card for a large amount. The conspirator would then give the cash to the food stamp recipient, but exchange it at a reduced amount. The food stamp user could then take the cash and use it to buy drugs or alcohol, all on the taxpayer dime.
Some conservatives wonder about the people who were doing this, and not just the store owners and employees. Many think that the operation should investigate who purchased items at those locations in suspicious amounts and consider revoking their welfare status. If the assistance is not being used for food, like intended, then obviously these people don’t need it.
In some cases, the criminals were simply exchanging the cards for cash, but in others, store owners had fraudulently obtained the SNAP cards.
Food-stamp Fraud is Widespread…
Zahran, also known as Youssef Hussein had just joined the others, but Hajje and Hajyousef owned Steve Market 2 and Yum-Yum’s grocery in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and allegedly defrauded the taxpayers of $4.2 million. It’s interesting to note that many of these criminals appear to be immigrants.
It would also be interesting to know how these men became store owners. Was “transitional cash” used to set up these businesses?
It seems that immigrants have made up the majority of food stamp system defrauders over the past few years. In September last year, Muslims in Baltimore stole $16 million. In April, in Connecticut, Mexican immigrants were stealing American taxpayer dollars to the tune of another $1.5 million.
Herreras, however, was the most successful at stealing. He collected nearly $10 million over the past five years using the scheme.
These criminals face serious consequences. Of late, the courts have taken a very strict view on people who think that the American government is a gravy train for thieves to exploit. Over the last few months, convictions in food stamp fraud has resulting in people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Kentucky being sent to prison.
A suspect in Maryland was given four years for illegally trafficking $3.7 million worth of food stamps, and was also sentenced to pay restitution. Hopefully, these people who think that the United States taxpayer can make them rich through theft will also be placed in federal prison for many, many years.