Baltimore, Maryland –Abdullah Aljaradi, age 52, and Ahmed Ayedh Al-Jabrati, age 58, both citizens of Yemen residing in Baltimore, have each pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash. Aljaradi’s guilty plea was entered on February 5th and Al-Jabrati entered his plea today.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William G. Squires, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region; and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati operated two convenience stores, Second Obama Express and D&M Deli and Grocery, located next door to each other at 901 Harlem Avenue in Baltimore. According to their plea agreements and court documents, the stores participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program. In Maryland, the program provides eligible individuals with an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card called the Independence Card, which operates like a debit card. Recipients obtain EBT cards through the state Department of Human Resources, then use the EBT card to purchase approved food items from participating retailers.
Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati knew that it was a violation of SNAP regulations to trade cash for SNAP benefits. Nevertheless, from October 2010 to July 2013, Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati exchanged SNAP benefits for cash at less than face value of the EBT benefits, in violation of the food stamp program rules, and kept up to 50 percent of the benefits for themselves.
The indictment alleges that as a result of these unlawful cash transactions, Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati obtained more than $2 million in payments for food sales that never occurred. While the Court will determine the actual amount of the financial loss for the purpose of calculating the sentencing guidelines, restitution, and forfeiture, any money judgment ordered by the Court will not be less than $259,344.15, the funds seized from the stores and from two bank accounts associated with the stores.
Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. scheduled sentencing for Aljaradi on April 30, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. and for Al-Jabrati for March 25, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.
Nine retail store owners or operators, including Aljaradi and Al-Jabrati, were indicted in September 2013 on federal charges of food stamp fraud and wire fraud in connection with schemes to illegally redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash. Dae Cho, age 67, and her son Hyung Cho, age 40, both of Catonsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty to food stamp and wire fraud arising out of the operation of K&S Food Market located at 3910 W. Belvedere Avenue and are scheduled to be sentenced on February 21, 2014. Amara Cisse, age 50, who owned Simbo Food Mart, located at 2103 West Pratt Street in Baltimore, and his wife Fanta Keita, age 45, who worked at the store, both of Windsor Mill, Maryland, have also pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and are scheduled to be sentenced on March 6, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised USDA’s Office of Inspector General and FBI for their work in the investigation. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein expressed appreciation to Secretary Ted Dallas and the Maryland Department of Human Resources, as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - Office of Fraud Detection and National Security for their assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, who is prosecuting the case.