News and Press Releases

Storeowner Sentenced for Defrauding Food Stamp Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2014

PITTSBURGH - A Whitehall resident has been sentenced in federal court to three years’ probation with eight months’ home detention and ordered to pay $101,333 in restitution on his conviction of wire fraud and food stamp fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

United States District Judge David S. Cercone imposed the sentence on Samson Dweh, 32 of Pittsburgh, Pa.

According to information presented to the court, Dweh was the owner and operator of Mariama African Store, a retail specialty food store on Brownsville Road in Pittsburgh. Mariama participated in the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. Food stamp recipients could purchase eligible food items at Mariama using food stamp benefit cards. The defendant was aware that Food Stamp Program rules prohibited the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or ineligible items. Despite this knowledge, on multiple occasions, the defendant exchanged food stamp benefits for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving his customers only 50 cents on the dollar for food stamp benefits. The defendant also permitted food stamp customers to purchase ineligible items with food stamp benefits and accepted food stamp benefits as payment on credit accounts and loans.

Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Cercone stated that the sentence, which was within the advisory range established by the United States Sentencing Guidelines, was a necessary and appropriate sentence.

Assistant United States Attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. Assistant United States Attorney Colin Callahan litigated the case on behalf of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Section of the United States Attorney's Office.

U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Dweh.

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