Westbrook Men Sentenced for 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, 41, of Westbrook, Maine, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court by Judge D. Brock Hornby to three years in prison and three years of supervised release for SNAP and WIC trafficking conspiracy, money laundering and theft of federal MaineCare funds. He was also ordered to pay $1,446,338 in restitution. He pleaded guilty on November 28, 2017. Abdulkareem Daham, 22, of Westbrook was sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to defraud and to commit offenses against the United States. He was also ordered to pay $954,979 in restitution. He was found guilty on January 11, 2018 following a three-day jury trial. The charges arose out of the defendants’ operation of Ahram Halal Market on Forest Avenue in Portland. Ali Ratib Daham was the owner and operator of the market; Abdulkareem was an employee.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) is a federal government 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 documents and trial evidence, the defendants conspired with each other to defraud the United States and traffic in SNAP and WIC benefits by allowing customers to exchange SNAP benefits and WIC checks for cash at a discounted rate and allowing SNAP benefits to be used to purchase ineligible goods or services or illegally pay off credit accounts at the market. Ali Ratib Daham also laundered proceeds of SNAP trafficking through the purchase and improvement of residential and commercial real estate, and stole about $39,000 in SNAP and MaineCare benefits by failing to report or update changes to his income and assets with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (“MDHHS”).
Judge Hornby stated that the sentences in these cases needed to promote respect for the law and have a deterrence effect on others. He told Ali Daham that his criminal conduct caused distrust of government welfare programs and may lead to prejudice against welfare recipients and immigrants.
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 MDHHS, Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit.