Grand Jury Indicts 13 in Wichita Food Stamp Case
WICHITA – A federal grand jury has indicted 13 persons in a two related cash-for-food-stamp benefits cases involving a total of more than a $580,000 in food stamp benefits, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Tuesday.
The indictments were returned Tuesday, Grissom said, and involve two small Wichita stores where food stamp benefits allegedly were redeemed for cash for 50 to 60 cents on the dollar. The stores are Alnoor Grocery and Biryani House, 5220 E. 21st St., and Kansas Food Market, 2600 N. Arkansas. The proprietors of both stores are charged in separate indictments.
“It is unlawful for recipients to abuse the benefits they receive from the federal government in this way,” Grissom said at a news conference. “And it is equally unlawful for those entrusted to sell food in exchange for the benefits to abuse the system.”
The proprietor of Alnoor Grocery, Muhammad Qadeer Akram, 46, and his wife, Shama Qadeer, 37, as well as the proprietor of Kansas Food Market, Ahmed Ajami Al-Maleki, 40, all of Wichita, each were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as “food stamps.” They also were charged with multiple counts of food stamp and wire fraud, according to the indictments.
Charged in both indictments is Wally Mikhael Gaggo, 48, who is accused of being a “runner” who obtains food stamp account cards and PIN numbers for the transactions, and then returns cash to recipients providing the account information. The indictments allege that Gaggo received about 10 percent of the transactions, in cash, for his part in the alleged scheme.
Also, Gaggo is alleged to have sought out SNAP recipients who congregate at places like the Drop-in-Center at 353 N. Market, obtained their Vision Card or account numbers, ran the transactions through Kansas Food Market, hen returned cash to the SNAP recipient, sometimes at a parking lot at 3rd and Broadway near the U.S. Courthouse. Those recipients tend to be unemployed and often are homeless, Grissom said.
In addition, ten recipients were indicted, five in the Alnoor Grocery case and four in the Kansas Food Market case. The ten were charged based on the frequency of transactions, dollar amounts and the nature of the evidence as to those defendants, Grissom said:
Alnoor Grocery and Biryani House
Sobhi O. Dana, 56, Wichita. Dana is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of food stamp fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
Laura S. Kemble, 33, Wichita. Kemble is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of food stamp fraud, and one count of wire fraud.
Angela N. Norwood, 37, Wichita. Norwood is charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of food stamp fraud, and three counts of wire fraud.
Tequita L. Higgins, 27, Wichita. Higgins is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of food stamp fraud, and one count of wire fraud.
Misty R. Rivera, 28, Wichita. Rivera is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of food stamp fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
Kansas Food Market
Joseph H. Morgan, 49, Wichita. Morgan is charge with one count of conspiracy, three counts of food stamp fraud, and three counts of wire fraud.
Hezekiah H. McGhee, 48, Wichita. McGhee is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of food stamp fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
Mpeka F. Magari, 30, Wichita. Magari is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of food stamp fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
Jason D. Kemp, 35, Wichita. Kemp is charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of food stamp fraud, and two counts of wire fraud.
The Alnoor Grocery indictment alleges that the SNAP recipients entered the store, their Kansas Vision cards would be swiped in amounts ranging from $100 to $500, and then they would leave the store without any groceries. The indictment also describes transactions involving undercover police officers in which cash allegedly was obtained from Shama Qadeer after fictitious purchase amounts were run through a SNAP terminal in the store.
The Kansas Food Market indictment alleges that defendant Gaggo would obtain Kansas Vision cards or account numbers, and PIN numbers, from recipients on the street, have defendant Al-Maleki run the transactions on KFM’s SNAP terminal, and then pay cash to the SNAP recipients.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services manages the SNAP program in Kansas under a contract with USDA and assisted in the investigations, Grissom said. Food stamp benefits are credited monthly to accounts accessed through the use of a “Kansas Vision” EBT card, which recipients use for various program benefits administered through SRS.
The conspiracy charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, as do the food stamp counts. The wire fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
Investigation of the cases was led by the USDA Office of Inspector General, Grissom said, with the assistance of SRS, the Wichita Police Department, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson is prosecuting. As in any criminal case, a person indicted for a crime is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.