Guilty: Iraqi Immigrant Ran $1.4 Million Food Stamp Scheme Under Obama

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Guilty Iraqi Immigrant Ran 1-4 Million Food Stamp Scheme Under Obama
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During the years of former President Barack Obama’s administration, there was much talk about the growth of the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Concurrent with that growth of the program was an increase in scammers making fraudulent claims to receive benefits, and one such individual who defrauded the government of more than $1.4 million just pleaded guilty to his crimes.

According to the Portland Press Herald, an Iraqi immigrant who had become a naturalized U.S. citizen just pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to defraud the government by operating a scheme in which he traded cash for food stamp vouchers at a discounted rate. He then redeemed the vouchers from the federal government for the full amount of benefits.

Ali Ratib Daham, a 40-year-old man from Westbrook, Maine, managed the scheme out of his small grocery store in Portland, the Ahram Halal Market, the Press Herald reported. He stood accused of defrauding the government of more than $1.4 million in benefits between 2011 and 2016 from both SNAP and WIC, the Women, Infants and Children program.

An investigation into the scheme was started by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services after authorities noticed that Daham’s store was processing a significantly larger number of SNAP benefits than similar, bigger stores in his area — more than twice as much on average.

That investigation was soon broadened to include the FBI, the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General and the Criminal Investigation Unit of the IRS, who determined that Daham was exchanging cash to customers for their benefit vouchers, which were then redeemed for the full amount with the government.

The store owner’s younger brother, 21-year-old Abdulkareem Daham, was also part of the scheme, and faces a single count of conspiracy in a separate trial.

According to the indictment against them, it was revealed that the Daham brothers used the fraudulently obtained funds for their own personal use, as well as to maintain and operate the store and keep inventory stocked.

Daham pleaded guilty to three counts against him as part of an agreement, which saw 22 other charges dropped, and will forfeit $80,000 cash seized and pay $1.4 million in restitution, according to Lifezette.

He could face a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy, 10 years and a $250,000 fine for theft of government funds and up to 20 years and a $500,000 fine for money laundering — though it is likely he will receive a much lighter sentence on all counts due to the plea agreement.

“The defendant stole from programs designed to provide nutritional items to some of our most vulnerable community members — low-income households, mothers, infants, and children,” stated U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank.

“The defendant put his own financial profit above their needs,” added Frank. “People who defraud these programs should expect to be brought to justice.”

Maine HHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton said in a statement, “Mainers can take comfort knowing that our dedicated Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit (“FIRU”) team is hard at work every day, ensuring state welfare benefits are going to the Mainers who need them most.”

Unfortunately, this sort of fraudulent activity was not an isolated incident, as Breitbart reported on three similar schemes uncovered and prosecuted in three different states earlier this year — millions of dollars in defrauded funds in Florida, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Sadly, there are countless examples of other similar schemes that were operated during the Obama years, though typically not of this magnitude. Hopefully the current administration will take steps to clamp down harder on such fraud than its predecessors.

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