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15 July 2011

2 men indicted in food stamp fraud probe

Federal grand jury action follows 19-month food stamp investigation.

DAYTON — A federal grand jury indicted two men on food stamp fraud and other felony charges in connection to alleged illegal trafficking activities at several Dayton businesses that resulted in police raiding those stores in May.

The indictments — unsealed last week by the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio — show charges were filed against Mohammed Zaid, who owns A&M Meats at 1609 Gilsey Ave., and Mohammed Qaqa, an employee at Food City, 1829 Germantown St.

Food City, A&M Meats and two Dayton View businesses Five Pillars Market and Cup of Dreams — were raided two months ago by local, state and federal authorities following a 19-month undercover investigation.

Some employees and management at the four businesses allegedly bought and sold Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or food stamp cards, while a few also sold guns and illegal drugs to confidential police informants, according to affidavits in support of search warrants unsealed after the raids.

Al-Idu Al-Gaheem, the owner of Cup of Dreams and Five Pillars Market and a local imam, allegedly received more than $2.5 million in food stamp reimbursements from the federal government, between $890,000 and nearly $2 million of which was from “unexplained” food stamp charges, according to an IRS agent’s affidavit in support of seizing Al-Gaheem’s bank account.

Between May 2010 and May of this year, Zaid is accused of purchasing 13 food stamp cards containing about $5,970 worth of food benefits from a confidential police informant, according to the indictment. Zaid allegedly paid for the cards with $2,479 in cash and a 9 mm pistol.

Zaid faces 12 counts of unauthorized use, transfer, acquisition, alteration or possession of benefits and five counts of wire fraud, according to court documents.

During a 13-month period, Qaqa, 29, is accused of selling 11 handguns to a confidential police informant while he worked at Food City. Qaqa allegedly sold the guns in exchange for $1,220 in cash and $390 worth of food stamps, according to the indictment.

Qaqa is also accused of buying seven food stamp cards, worth about $3,160, in exchange for $1,265 and three pistols. He faces 11 counts of dealing in firearms without a license, seven counts of unauthorized use or possession of benefits and two counts of wire fraud.

As a result of the undercover operation, the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Investigative Unit filed 14 administrative citations against Food City for illegal use of EBT cards, receiving stolen property and trafficking in EBT.

The Ohio Liquor Control Commission will determine whether to punish the business, which can include fines and revocation of the business’ alcohol permit, said Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Liquor Control.

No charges have been filed yet against Al-Gaheem and other employees at his businesses. Fred Alverson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, could not be reached for comment.

A grand jury last month also approved charges against Amjad El-Hardan for nine counts of misuse of food stamp benefits and one count of wire fraud.

El-Hardan, who was not named in the affidavits in support of May’s raids, allegedly bought about $2,600 worth of food stamp benefits for about $1,235 from February 2010 to last March, according to the indictment.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-0749 or cfrolik@DaytonDailyNews.com.




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