St. Petersburg Store Owner And Clerk Indicted For Food Stamp Fraud
Tampa, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Mehdi Babul (58) and Isam Nasser (30) with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and five counts of food stamp fraud. If convicted of the conspiracy charge, Babul and Nasser each face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. For each wire fraud count, they face a maximum penalty of twenty years in federal prison. And, if convicted, they each face up to one year in federal prison for each of the food stamp fraud charges.
According to the indictment, Babul owned and operated Hungry Baba, LLC, a convenience store located in St. Petersburg. Isam Nasser was a clerk at Hungry Baba. During the time frame of the alleged conspiracy, Hungry Baba was a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. From November 2008 through April 2010, Babul, Nasser, and others allegedly conspired and schemed to cheat SNAP by purchasing SNAP benefits from Hungry Baba customers. They exchange the benefits for cash, minus a fee of approximately 50% of the total amount charged to the individual recipient’s SNAP account. This is an illegal practice known as “discounting” or “cash-back.”
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the St. Petersburg Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J. Mueller.