Lawrenceville Couple Indicted For Wire Fraud And Money Laundering
TV Commercials to Promote U.S. Company Never Aired, Never Existed
ATLANTA, GA - MUSHTAQ MISTRY, 46, and WAHEEDA BANO MISTRY, 42, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, false statements and money laundering and have made an initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Russell Vineyard, who set their bond at $25,000 each.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, "The Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program is designed to make it more financially feasible for U.S. companies to advertise in international markets. These defendants are charged with defrauding the program by submitting false claims for advertising expenses in Dubai that never happened."
"USDA is committed to working jointly with the US Attorney's Office and other federal, state and local agencies to investigate and prosecute those individuals who defraud its programs, whether those programs be administered domestically or internationally," said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent in Charge, Southeastern Region, USDA-OIG.
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke said, “The submission of false claims to a federal agency for financial gain and the laundering of any ill-gotten monies is a very serious offense, especially during a time of high federal deficits. These defendants allegedly perpetrated a scheme to bilk a federal program designed to assist well-meaning American companies trying to compete internationally. IRS Criminal Investigation will devote the necessary resources to investigate financial crimes that cause harm to the U.S. Treasury and the American taxpayer.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From April 2007 through August 2009, MUSHTAQ MISTRY, the owner of “Salwa Foods,” a company that produces halal frozen foods, submitted false claims to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for marketing expenses allegedly incurred in relation to television commercials advertising Salwa Foods products. Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Market Access Program” (“MAP”), food producers can be reimbursed for up to half of the costs of marketing their products internationally. MAP is administered through the Southern United States Trade Association, which contracts with the Commodity Credit Corporation, an arm of the Department of Agriculture. MUSHTAQ MISTRY falsely represented to MAP that he had paid for television ads on a Dubai television network to promote Salwa Foods in the United Arab Emirates. However, no such ads were ever purchased. The Government alleges loss amounts in the false claims which total approximately $300,000.
The indictment alleges that, in order to support the Salwa Foods claims for MAP reimbursement, MUSHTAQ MISTRY submitted false invoices from the Dubai television networks. In addition, he and his wife, WAHEEDA MISTRY, transferred funds to companies owned by WAHEEDA MISTRY, then obtained checks drawn on WAHEED MISTRY’s companies’ accounts and made payable to the Dubai television networks. Copies of the checks were included with the Salwa Foods MAP claims. However, according to the indictment, the checks were never delivered to the Dubai television networks, and thus the funds were never paid to the television networks. WAHEEDA MISTRY simply re-deposited the funds into her companies’ accounts and transferred the money back to Salwa Foods.
The indictment charges MISTRY with fifteen counts of wire fraud, three counts of false statements to the Commodity Credit Corporation, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and eleven counts of money laundering. The indictment charges WAHEEDA MISTRY with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and eleven counts of money laundering. Each wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, each false statement count carries a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of up to $10,000, and the money laundering counts each carries a maximum sentence of twenty years and a fine of up to $500,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Assistant United States Attorney Shanya J. Dingle is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan