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Press Release

Birmingham Store Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Food Stamp and Tax Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM -- A federal judge today sentenced the owner of a Southside Birmingham grocery store to more than three years in prison for food stamp and tax fraud totaling more than $1.6 million, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, Investigations, Special Agent in Charge Karen Citizen-Wilcox, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot.

U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor sentenced SUFYAN HAZEM SALEH, 33, of Birmingham, to 36 months in prison for subscribing to false tax returns for 2009 and 2010, and to 37 months in prison for food stamp fraud. The sentences are to run concurrently. Saleh pleaded guilty to the charges in June.

As part of Saleh's sentence, and in accordance with his plea agreement with the government, the judge ordered Saleh to pay restitution of $498,470 to the IRS and $1,125,772 to the USDA, which administers the food stamp program under the name Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Salah also must forfeit $375,220 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity. He must report to prison Dec. 9.

Saleh owns the now closed City Supermarket at 1531 13th Place South, a convenience grocery story that was authorized by USDA to accept food stamp benefits, according to his indictment and plea agreement

Individuals in the SNAP program receive benefits from the USDA on an electronic benefit transfer card, which functions like a debit card. Saleh pleaded guilty to redeeming EBT SNAP benefits for cash, which is prohibited, between January 2010 and December 2011. Of the approximate $1.9 million City Supermarket redeemed in EBT SNAP benefits during that period, the USDA estimated that $1,125,772 was food stamp fraud, according to Saleh's plea.

Saleh also pleaded guilty to tax fraud for under reporting to the IRS his 2009 and 2010 income received from redeeming SNAP benefits. Saleh did not report about $1.6 million in income from food stamp redemption for the two tax years, resulting in a tax loss of about $498,470, according to his plea.

The USDA-OIG and IRS-CI investigated the federal case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Meadows prosecuted.

Updated September 10, 2015