Three brothers charged with operating $4 million food stamp fraud conspiracy from their Cleveland store
A six-count indictment was filed in federal court charging three brothers for their roles in a $4 million food stamp fraud conspiracy operated through their Cleveland business, law enforcement officials said.
Mohammad H. Mohammad, 52 of Parma; Omar H. Mohammad, 49, of Parma, and Rashid H. Mohammad, 53, of Strongsville, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and one count of unlawful redemption of food stamps. Mohammad Mohammad also faces three additional counts of engaging in financial transactions with proceeds from specified unlawful activity.
The Mohammads and others conspired to commit more than $4 million in food stamp fraud through the use of their business, Holyland Imported Goods, located at 11717 Lorain Avenue. This took place between 2003 and 2015, according to the indictment.
The investigation revealed the defendants and others used their business to exchange customer food stamps for cash and other unauthorized items. The defendants also engaged in a pattern of purchasing customer food stamp cards and using them at other grocery locations to purchase inventory for Holyland, according to the indictment.
The indictment also seeks to recover $4 million, including nearly $900,000 that has been seized from various bank accounts.
“For more than a decade, these defendants have been cheating the taxpayers by illegally accepting food stamp cards they knew didn’t belong to the card holder, and accepting food stamps for prohibited items, including tobacco and prepared food for resale at restaurants,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Carole S. Rendon. “We will continue to prosecute violations of the food stamp program, which is designed to help the most vulnerable in our community, not enrich those who prey on them.”
“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals who attempt to defraud U.S. Department of Agriculture programs,” said Anthony V. Mohatt, Special Agent in Charge, USDA-OIG-Investigations. “It should also serve as a warning to all that fraud will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by the USDA-OIG, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and all its federal, state, and local partners that have a stake in ensuring that fraud is eliminated from taxpayer funded programs.”
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was designed to help the men, women and children of Cleveland with the purchase of eligible items, not to be used for the purchase of unauthorized items or to be exchanged for cash,” said Guy A. Ficco, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes where individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money.”
“The Mohammad’s engaged in millions of dollars of fraud targeting federal government food assistance programs in order to line their pockets,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “Driven by their greed, they showed a complete disregard for those who were truly in need.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christos N. Georgalis, M. Kendra Klump and Phillip J. Tripi after an investigation by agents of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General-Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ohio Department of Public Safety and the Lakewood Police Department.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.