Tampa Convenience Store Operator Sentenced to More than Three Years in Federal Prison
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that Senior United States District Judge William J. Castagna yesterday sentenced Khaldoun Khalil Khawaja, aka Tony Khawaja (47, Tampa), to 37 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. A jury found Khawaja guilty of the charge on January 19, 2012.
According to evidence presented at trial, Khawaja operated several Tampa area convenience stores, including Main Street Groceries, also known as Tony's Groceries. A law enforcement investigation revealed that Tony Khawaja, a convicted felon on probation, was negotiating fraudulently obtained federal income tax refund checks in his office at the back of the store. Specifically, on May 5, 2011, an undercover officer (UC) with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office went to Khawaja's office at Main Street Groceries with two spurious Treasury checks. During the meeting, which was captured on video, Khawaja paid the UC twenty cents on the dollar, or $240 in cash for each of the checks, neither of which were in the UC's name. While in the office, the UC observed Khawaja, at his desk, next to a 12 gauge shotgun. During the subsequent execution of a federal search warrant at Main Street Groceries, on May 20, 2011, law enforcement agents recovered the 12 gauge shotgun, shotgun shells, .380 caliber ammunition, and a loaded .9mm semiautomatic Glock handgun. Agents also recovered $9,498.52 in cash from Khawaja's office and four U.S. Treasury checks from his front pants pocket.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Joseph Swanson.
It was prosecuted as part of Operation Rainmaker, a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida and various federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, IRS, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to combat the filing of false tax returns in the Tampa Bay region.