Three Brook Park men indicted for $2 million food-Stamp fraud
Three Brook Park men were indicted for defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) out $2 million from four Cleveland stores where they accepted food stamps for ineligible items such as beer and cigarettes, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Saed (Sam) Wahdan, 41, his brother, Maher (Mario) Wahdan, 42, and Nidal Jaber, 45, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and two counts of unlawful redemption of food stamps. Maher Wahdan faces an additional count of theft of public funds.
“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.”
Between January 2008 and March 2012, the defendants and others conspired to commit more than $2 million in food-stamp fraud through four of their businesses: One Stop Beverage, 5105 Franklin Blvd.; Bridge Deli and Beverage, 4700 Bridge Ave.; Franklin Beverage and Deli, 4719 Franklin Blvd., and Scott Food Mart, 951 Linn Drive.
The Wahdans owned and operated all four stores but put them in the names of other people to conceal the fact that Saed Wahdan had a prior conviction for food stamp trafficking and Maher Wahdan had a prior conviction for impersonating an officer – both of which precluded their participation in the food stamp program, according to the indictment.
The defendants used their businesses to exchange customer food stamps for cash and other unauthorized items, including beer and cigarettes. They also purchased food stamp cards from customers and used them at other grocery locations to purchase inventory for their stores and for their personal use, according to the indictment.
The indictment seeks to forfeit property derived from the proceeds of the criminal conduct of the Wahdans, including the following Cleveland properties: 9604 Dennison Ave.; 3353 West 44th Street; 3374 West 130th Street; 1452 West 75th Street and 951 Linn Drive.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christos N. Georgalis, Vasile Katsaros and James Morford following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General-Investigations and Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.
If convicted, the 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.