Palm Beach County Brothers And Company Sentenced In $4 Million “Cash Back” Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), Donnell Young, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Ryan P. Lynch, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Ric Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), announce that Ali Jaber, 52, and his brother, Hadi Jaber, 42, both of Greenacres, and Jaber Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Fajita’s Meat and Fish Market (Fajita’s), located in Palm Springs, were sentenced today before U.S. Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. Ali and Habi Jaber were each sentenced to 70 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Both defendants agreed to pay $4 million, jointly and severally, as restitution to the United States Department of Agriculture. The corporation, Jaber Enterprises, Inc., was sentenced to five years of organizational probation and $4 million in restitution.
All three defendants previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Defendants Ali and Hadi Jaber also each pled guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 152, and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957.
According to court documents, from October 2006 through their arrest in December 2013, Ali and Hadi Jaber operated a grocery store known as Fajita's. Fajita’s was an authorized retailer for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP is a program that affords low and middle income households the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their ability to purchase food. Eligible foods include any food or food product intended to be prepared and eaten at home, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, and dairy products. USDA rules specifically prohibit the exchange of SNAP benefits for cash. SNAP recipients collect their benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards which operate like debit cards. On a monthly basis, each EBT card is credited with a dollar amount to be used for the purchase of eligible food items.
Between October 2006, when they purchased Fajita’s, and their arrest in December 2013, Ali and Hadi Jaber unlawfully provided certain SNAP recipients cash in exchange for their SNAP benefits. The defendants charged a substantial fee to the SNAP recipient’s EBT card for the cash exchange. In some cases, the fee was as much as approximately 30% to 50% of the amount of the SNAP benefits redeemed.
From January 1, 2009 through April 30, 2013, over $6 million in SNAP proceeds were redeemed by Fajita's. The defendants admitted that between $2.8 and $6 million of the proceeds were fraudulent.
Defendants Ali and Hadi Jaber admitted to withdrawing over $1.8 million in cash from the scheme. In addition, Ali Jaber admitted wiring approximately $179,000 in fraud proceeds to an account in his name in Beirut, Lebanon, and over $400,000 in fraudulent proceeds was wired to various entities and individuals in Lebanon and Canada.
Hadi and Ali Jaber also admitted that approximately $220,000 from the Jaber Enterprises, Inc. accounts was used to purchase a single family home in Greenacres. Though titled in the name of Jaber Enterprises, Inc., the home was the residence of Hadi Jaber and his family.
Ali and Hadi Jaber also admitted to bankruptcy fraud. Ali Jaber admitted that he did not disclose his Beirut account in his bankruptcy filings, and defendant Hadi Jaber admitted he did not disclose his interest in Fajita’s in his filings.
Previously, defendant Daniel Velazquez, a/k/a Diego Antonio Simone, 33, of Greenacres, pled guilty to one count of theft of government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and was sentenced to five months in prison. Velazquez was a long-time clerk at Fajita’s who participated in the fraud.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of USDA-OIG, IRS-CI, HHS-OIG and PBSO. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Bell and Adam McMichael.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.