Snow Hill Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Racketeering Conspiracy

Conspirators Sought to Pay Over $900,000 in Bribes to Government Officials to Abate State Taxes and Obtain Green Cards

June 25, 2008

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Mohammad Ijaz, age 43, of Snow Hill, Maryland, today to four years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for a racketeering conspiracy related to a scheme to bribe officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to illegally obtain green cards and the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to receive abatement of state taxes, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Garbis also ordered Ijaz to forfeit $249,132.06, which is the amount he paid or assisted in paying to bribe government officials and that he forfeit his ownership interest in the Chicken Man Food Store in Snow Hill.

“Protecting the integrity of our government requires us to investigate and prosecute private citizens who try to bribe government officials,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to his guilty plea, Ijaz was born in Pakistan and became a citizen of the United States in March 1997. Ijaz owned and operated a convenience store/gas station in Snow Hill, called Chicken Man Food Store (“Chicken Man”).

In January 2005 a co-conspirator approached a cooperating witness to see if he could help bribe a Maryland state tax official to abate approximately $788,000 in state sales and use taxes that had been assessed against Chicken Man and another convenience store. From January 2005 to September 2007, Ijaz and his co-conspirators agreed to pay the cooperating witness $450,000 in bribes to deliver to an individual they believed to be a corrupt official of the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to release over $1.8 million in Maryland sales and use taxes assessed against Chicken Man and other convenience store businesses associated with Ijaz and his co-conspirators.

In March 2005, a co-conspirator again approached the cooperating witness to see if he could obtain green cards in exchange for bribes. From March 2005 through September 2007 Ijaz and his co-conspirators agreed to pay $495,000 to the cooperating witness to deliver to an individual they believed to be a U.S. Immigration official to illegally issue green cards for the conspirators, their family members, employees and associates.

The payments for the bribes were all made to the cooperating witness, who provided the money to federal law enforcement agents. There in fact were no corrupt immigration and state officials involved in the scheme. Over the course of the scheme, Ijaz helped to facilitate a number of the bribes and met with co-conspirators and the cooperating witness at his store.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work and expressed appreciation to the Maryland Comptroller’s Office for its assistance in this case. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Christine Manuelian and P. Michael Cunningham, who are prosecuting the case.



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