Three Plead Guilty in Wichita Food Stamp Fraud Case
WICHITA, KAN. – A Wichita couple that owned a grocery store and a food stamp recipient have pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Entering guilty pleas were:
Muhammad Qadeer Akram, 46, Wichita, Kan., the former owner of Alnoor Grocery Store, 5220 E. 21st in Wichita, one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and one count of wire fraud.
Shama L. Qadeer, 38, Wichita, Kan., Muhammad Qadeer Akram’s wife, who was a co-owner of the grocery store, one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and one count of wire fraud.
Tequita L. Higgins, 28, Wichita, Kan., one count of food stamp fraud.
In their pleas, Muhammad Qadeer Akram and Shama Qadeer admitted to entering into a conspiracy with others to defraud the United States Department of Agriculture by giving cash to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, in exchange for SNAP benefits. The scheme was to give SNAP recipients cash for their benefits, about 50-to-60 cents on the dollar, and keep the rest of the benefits for themselves. They would run SNAP transactions to make it appear SNAP benefits were being used to purchase approved food items at their store. In one instance, on Nov. 5, 2010, they gave a SNAP recipient about $150 in cash in return for SNAP benefits totaling $308.79. In another instance, $503.33 was credited to their account for a SNAP transaction. They gave the SNAP recipient $250 and falsified reports to make it appear the recipient had purchased approved food items. The indictment alleges $450,000 in similar transactions.
In her plea, Higgins admitted using her Vision card at Alnoor Groceries. She received about $150 in cash in return for a $308.79 SNAP transaction.
Sentencing is set for Dec. 7. The defendants face the following penalties:
Conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud: A maximum penalty of five years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000.
Food stamp fraud: A maximum penalty of five years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000.
Wire fraud: A maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $100,000.
Grissom commended the USDA Office of Inspector General, Investigations, the Kansas Dept. of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the Wichita Police Department, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson for their work on the case.