Three indicted for $780,000 Food Stamp Fraud from Store in Cleveland
Three men were indicted today on charges that they engaged in a decade-long conspiracy to defraud the food stamp and Women, Infants and Children programs out of more than $780,000 by trading the vouchers for cash and restricted items such as beer and cigarettes from a store in Cleveland, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Ahmad (“Tony”) Damra, 31, of Macedonia, his brother, Mahmoud (“Moe”) Damrah, 26, of Cleveland, and Mohammad D. Mohammad, 41, of Strongsville, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, three counts of food stamp fraud and unlawful redemption of food stamps, and one count of Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) fraud.
“The food stamp program has provided nutritious food to thousands of hungry families over the years,” Dettelbach said. “We will continue to work to recover money stolen from the program and eradicate waste, fraud and abuse of government programs.”
The indictment charges that between 2002 and 2011, the defendants and others conspired to commit over $780,000 in food stamp and WIC program fraud through the use of the East 143rd Food Market, located at 3249 East 143rd Street in Cleveland.
Mohammad owned, operated and managed the store. He obtained a food stamp license in 1997, which, except for a two-year period beginning in September 1998, remained in effect through 2004, according to the indictment.
In 2005, he obtained a food stamp license for the market using the business Rashiqa, Inc., which listed Mohammad’s mother as president. Mohammad placed the business in the name of another person to conceal his ownership because his prior conviction for aggravated arson precluded his participation in the food stamp program, according to the indictment.
Also in 2005, Mohammad obtained a WIC program authorization under Rashiqa, Inc., according to the indictment.
Ahmad Damra started working at the market in 2002, first as a clerk and then as manager. Mahmoud Damrah started working as a clerk at the store in 2008, according to the indictment.
The investigation revealed that the defendants and others used their business to exchange customer food stamps and WIC coupons for cash and other unauthorized items, including beer and cigarettes. The men also purchased customer food stamp cards and used them at other grocery locations to purchase inventory for the market and for their own personal use, according to the indictment.
The indictment was presented to the Grand Jury by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christos N. Georgalis, Vasile Katsaros, and James Morford after an investigation by agents of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General-Investigations.
If convicted, defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after a review of factors unique to the case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.