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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 1, 2016

Manhattan Man Arrested For Sales Of Synthetic Cannabinoids And Snap Fraud

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William G. Squires Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), Office of Inspector General, and Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York (“HSI”), announced the arrest today of YOUSIF MOSLEH, an individual associated with two retail food stores in Manhattan, New York, who engaged in sales of synthetic cannabinoids in exchange for benefits issued by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), and who conspired with others to sell other items not eligible for sale under SNAP in exchange for SNAP benefits.  MOSLEH was arrested this afternoon and is expected to be presented before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV this afternoon.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Yousif Mosleh is charged with peddling dangerous synthetic drugs in New York City neighborhoods and funding his drug sales by abusing a system created to assist the most vulnerable in our society.  Thanks to the dedicated agents of the USDA and HSI, Mosleh can no longer profit from this illegal scheme.”     

Special Agent-in-Charge William G. Squires Jr. stated:  “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was created to provide food and nutrition to those who truly need this assistance.  Those who are involved in fraud and abuse of SNAP and other USDA programs will be aggressively pursued by our office.  Our joint investigation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, and the New York City Sheriff’s Office has brought to justice an individual who sought to profit from the SNAP program through illegal schemes. The USDA Office of Inspector General will continue to dedicate resources and work with our law enforcement partners in order to protect the integrity of these programs and to prosecute those who commit fraud.”

Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “SNAP was created to help low income families put food on their tables. Instead, Mosleh allegedly used SNAP to feed drug addicts a hazardous synthetic narcotic.  K2 poses a public safety risk, especially for our teens and young adults.  Mosleh’s arrest is a testament to HSI’s commitment to keep illegal drugs off our streets.” 

The following allegations are based on the unsealed Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

Congress established the Federal Food Stamp Program in 1977 for the purpose of alleviating hunger and malnutrition.  In 2008, the program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP” or “the Program”).  The Program uses tax dollars to subsidize low-income households, helping low-income individuals and families to maintain more nutritious diets by increasing the food purchasing power of eligible households.  According to USDA regulations, items such as cigarettes, hot foods for immediate consumption, and controlled substances, among other items, are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits (“Ineligible Items”).      

MOSLEH’s Knowledge of and Participation in the SNAP Program

According to USDA records, a deli located on Lexington Avenue East 124th Street and East 125th Street in Manhattan, New York (“Deli-1”), received a license to accept and redeem SNAP benefits in December 2007.  MOSLEH, the defendant, frequently works behind the counter at Deli-1, operating the cash register and the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminal.

In the immediate vicinity of Deli-1 is another deli (“Deli-2”), owned and operated by MOSLEH.  According to USDA records, MOSLEH submitted an application for a license for Deli-2 to accept and redeem SNAP benefits in December 2013, and Deli-2 received such license in June 2014. 

MOSLEH’s Sales of K2 for SNAP Benefits

“K2” is a street name applied to a synthetic cannabinoid, in green leafy form, that is intended to mimic the effects of marijuana.  K2 frequently contains synthetic cannabinoids AB-CHMINACA and XLR-11.  XLR-11 was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance on May 16, 2013, and AB-CHMINACA was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance on January 30, 2015.

As part of this investigation, the USDA has worked with two cooperating sources (“CS-1” and “CS-2”), who assisted the USDA in making controlled purchases of K2 and other Ineligible Items, which were video recorded covertly.  Between June 29, 2015, and July 30, 2015, CS-1, at the direction of law enforcement, used SNAP benefits at Deli-1 to purchase multiple packages of synthetic cannabinoids directly from MOSLEH.  These packages contained XLR-11 and AB-CHMINACA, based on laboratory testing. 

Additionally, between July 23, 2015, and July 30, 2015, law enforcement recovered more than 2,000 packages of what appeared to be K2 from Deli-1. 

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MOSLEH, 26, of Manhattan, is charged with two counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to violate the statutes and regulations governing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the USDA and HSI.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the New York City Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the New York City Police Department, for their critical support and cooperation throughout the investigation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda L. Houle is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
16-236
Updated September 1, 2016