Westbrook Man Pleads Guilty to SNAP and WIC Trafficking Conspiracy, Money Laundering and Theft of Government Funds
Portland, Maine: United States Attorney Halsey B. Frank announced that Ali Ratib Daham, 40, of Westbrook, Maine, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to SNAP and WIC trafficking conspiracy, money laundering and theft of federal MaineCare funds. Daham was charged by indictment on April 24, 2017.
Court documents show that from 2011 to 2017, Daham owned the Ahram Halal Market in Portland. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) is a federal program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, designed to raise the level of nutrition among low-income households. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”) is a federal program that provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition for certain low-income women, and to infants and children up to age five who were found to be nutritionally at risk. Ahram became a SNAP retailer in 2011 and a WIC retailer in 2012.
According to court records, from 2011 through April 2016, Daham conspired with others to give cash to customers at Ahram in exchange for SNAP or WIC benefits plus a fee, in violation of the rules of these programs and federal law. During that period, Ahram received over $4 million in SNAP and WIC receipts, at least $1.4 million of which were obtained illegally. Daham also laundered proceeds of the conspiracy and stole at least $39,000 in MaineCare benefits for himself and his family by underreporting his income and assets to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (“Maine DHHS”).
“The defendant stole from programs designed to provide nutritional items to some of our most vulnerable community members – low income households, mothers, infants and children,” said U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank. “The defendant put his own financial profit above their needs. People who defraud these programs should expect to be brought to justice.”
“Mainers can take comfort knowing that our dedicated Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit (“FIRU”) team is hard at work every day, ensuring state welfare benefits are going to the Mainers who need them most,” said Maine DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton.
Daham faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy and ten years for theft of government funds, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for money laundering. In a plea agreement, Daham agreed to pay $1,446,372 in restitution, including $80,000 at or prior to sentencing, and agreed to the forfeiture of $80,814 in cash that was seized from him in 2016. He will be sentenced after the completion of a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and the Maine DHHS, FIRU.