News and Press Releases

Grocery Owner Faked Hate Crime

February 21, 2007

MIZRA M. AKRAM, 40, of Everett, Washington was convicted today U.S. District Court in Seattle in a bench trial before United States District Judge Marsha J. Pechman of Conspiracy to Commit Arson.

The evidence at trial showed that AKRAM was the owner of Continental Spices, a halal grocery store in Everett. In 2003 and 2004 the store’s finances deteriorated. AKRAM recruited an acquaintance, Naveed Khan, to assist him in burning the store for insurance proceeds. AKRAM and Khan staged the arson on the evening of July 8, 2004, and Khan returned to the store and lit the fire at approximately 4:00 a.m. on the morning of July 9, 2004. To deflect attention from themselves, AKRAM and Khan spray painted racist graffiti around the store in order to make it appear that the crime was a hate crime targeted against muslims. Khan previously pled guilty to arson and testified at trial against AKRAM.

AKRAM originally was tried for the arson in early 2006. AKRAM’s first trial ended in a hung jury. During the course of investigating the arson, law enforcement agents discovered that AKRAM had used Continental Spices to commit more than $30,000 of food stamp fraud. In addition to redeeming food stamps for cash, AKRAM cheated food stamp recipients by swiping their food stamp cards through the debit machine repeatedly, telling the recipients that transactions had not gone through, and swiping their cards again thereby debiting their food stamp accounts a second time for a single purchase. AKRAM was convicted of fraud charges in July 2006 and was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. AKRAM now faces an additional sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy-to-commit-arson charge.

“We are particularly pleased with the verdict in this case,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “By faking a hate crime, AKRAM falsely instilled fear in members of his community that they too might be subject to similar crimes. No one should have to live with that type of fear.”

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. AKRAM is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pechman on April 13, 2007.

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 C. Friedman and Jill Otake.

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

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