St. Petersburg Store Clerk Convicted In Food Stamp Fraud Conspiracy
Tampa, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that a federal jury yesterday found Isam Nasser (30) guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and five counts of food stamp fraud. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, the wire fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of twenty years in federal prison, and each food stamp fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison. Nasser will be sentenced on July 10, 2013.
According to evidence presented at trial, Mehdi Babul owned and operated Hungry Baba, LLC ("Hungry Baba") convenience store located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Nasser was a clerk at Hungry Baba. During the time frame of the conspiracy, Hungry Baba was a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administered by the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
From November 2008, through April 2010, Babul, Nasser, and others conspired and schemed to cheat SNAP by purchasing SNAP benefits from Hungry Baba customers in exchange for cash, minus a fee of approximately 50% of the total amount charged to the individual recipient’s SNAP account. This is an illegal practice known as “discounting” or “cash-back.” According to testimony introduced at trial, the estimated loss to the USDA caused by the conspirators was more than $350,000.
On March 1, 2013, Mehdi Babul pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud. He will be sentenced on May 20, 2013.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the United States Department of Agriculture - Office of the Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the St. Petersburg Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew J. Mueller.