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Retailers plead guilty to food stamp fraud

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Two foreign citizens residing in Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to committed fraud in connection with a scheme to illegally redeem food stamp benefit in exchange for cash over three years and obtained a significant amount of money in payments for food sales that never occurred.

Abdullah Aljaradi, (52), and Ahmed Ayedh Al-Jabrati, (58), both citizens of Yemen, operated in two convenience stores of Baltimore City --Second Obama Express and D&M Deli and Grocery--, located next door to each other at 901 Harlem Avenue where the illegal transactions were committed.

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. Both Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati knew that it was a violation of SNAP regulations to trade cash for SNAP benefits. Nevertheless, from October 2010 to July 2013, Aljaradi and 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.

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.

The indictment alleges that as a result of these unlawful cash transactions, Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati obtained more than $2 million in payments for food sales that never occurred.

While the Court will determine the actual amount of the financial loss for the purpose of calculating the sentencing guidelines, restitution, and forfeiture, any money judgment ordered by the Court will not be less than $259,344.15, the funds seized from the stores and from two bank accounts associated with the stores.

Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison that will be issued on April 30, 2014 for Aljaradi and March 25 for Al-Jabrati by Judge William D. Quarles. The guilty pleas were announced today by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

In the investigation also intervened 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 (FBI).

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