Raleigh Convenient Store Owner Sentenced To 78-Months For Food Stamp Fraud
RALEIGH – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced that today in federal court, Chief United States District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced Ali Dhaher al-darajy, age 47, of Raleigh, North Carolina, to 78 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. AL-DARAJY was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,305,630 to the United States Department of Agriculture and to forfeit his interest in money seized during the investigation and five pieces of real property in Wake County.
al-darajy was named in Criminal Information filed on November 13, 2015 charging him with Theft of Government Property and Engaging in Unlawful Monetary Transactions. On November 23 2015, pursuant to a plea agreement, AL-DARAJY pled guilty to those charges.
Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special-Agent-in-Charge of the Southeast Region for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, confirmed the Inspector General’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting “individuals who fraudulently obtain food stamp benefits.”
al-darajy owned and operated three convenient stores in Raleigh under the name Hannah Stop n’ Shop or Hannah Stop n’Drink. One of the stores was downtown on Wilmington Street and the other two in the same building on Western Boulevard. Beginning in December 2010, al-darajy was authorized to accept Federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in return for eligible items as prescribed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The SNAP prohibits the sale of ineligible food items, including alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, pet food, household supplies, vitamins, and prepared foods in exchange for benefits, which are typically electronically transmitted through point of sale terminals. SNAP benefits may not, under any circumstances, be exchanged for cash.
Between January 11, 2013 and January 7, 2014, nine undercover operations were conducted at these stores. In total, $6,465.68 was fraudulently obtained in SNAP benefits. On March 26, 2013, AL-DARAJY charged $1,019.74 to the SNAP card presented by the undercover who received $472 in cash, a carton of Newport cigarettes and a 12-pack of Bud beer. Again, on June 4, 2013, AL-DARAJY fraudulently charged $486.12 to a SNAP card and gave the undercover $211 in cash.
By comparing the amount of SNAP benefits received by AL-DARAJY’s stores with comparable stores in North Carolina, USDA determined AL-DARAJY had stolen approximately $2,305,630. AL-DARAJY used these stolen SNAP funds to, among other things, pay down the mortgage on his personal residence, repay his business partner for the 2010 purchase of the Western Avenue building, pay monthly American Express bills, purchase three pieces of real property, and purchase four automobiles. There were 11 transactions that exceeded $10,000.
Investigation of this case was jointly conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and the Raleigh Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Susan B. Menzer represented the government.