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EVERETT MAN CONVICTED OF WIRE FRAUD AND FOOD STAMP FRAUD
Specialty Grocery Owner Paid Cash for Food Stamps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2006

MIZRA M. AKRAM, 39, of Everett, Washington was convicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle of ten counts of Food Stamp Fraud and thirteen counts of Wire Fraud. The jury deliberated about three hours before returning guilty verdicts on all counts.

During the five day trial prosecutors presented evidence that AKRAM, the owner of Continental Spices in Everett, repeatedly allowed customers to redeem their food stamps for cash or for items other than food. AKRAM charged customers a portion of the food stamps redeemed.

Government investigators first noticed irregularities in the store’s food stamp redemptions when investigating an arson at the store in July 2004. In addition to redeeming food stamps for cash and non-food items, AKRAM cheated food stamp recipients by swiping their food stamp cards through the debit machine repeatedly. AKRAM told recipients the first transaction had not gone through, and swiped their cards again to increase the money coming to the store from the food stamp program. Because many of these transactions occurred electronically, AKRAM was charged with Wire Fraud as well as Food Stamp Fraud. The amount of fraud was in excess of $30,000.

AKRAM originally was charged in August 2004 in connection with an arson at his Everett store. The fire was staged to look like a hate crime. In February 2006, following an eight-day jury trial, a mistrial was declared on the Arson counts when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. A retrial on the Arson charges is scheduled for October 16, 2006.

Wire Fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Food Stamp Fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison. AKRAM is a citizen of Pakistan with legal residency in the United States. He could be deported following his prison term. AKRAM was ordered into federal custody following the guilty verdict. U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman will hold a hearing Friday, July 28, 2006, to determine whether he should remain in custody pending sentencing.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Everett Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Jill Otake.

For additional information please call Andrew Friedman or Jill Otake at (206) 553-7970.

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