Father, Son Indicted for Accepting Food Stamps for K2 at Independence Businesses
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the father-and-son operators of two Independence, Mo., stores have been indicted by a federal grand jury for distributing synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, and for accepting food stamps as payment for K2.
Haris Nawaz, 23, and his father, Haq Nawaz Choudhry, 51, both of Kansas City, Mo., were charged in an eight-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, June 30, 2016. That indictment was unsealed and made public following their arrests and initial court appearances on Friday, July 1, 2016. Both Nawaz and Choudhry remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Wednesday, July 6, 2016.
Choudhry is the president of H Habib Enterprises, Inc., which owns the Short Stop convenience store and Kerns Liquor, located next door to each other at 9013 E. U.S. 40 Highway in Independence and operated by Nawaz and Choudhry.
The federal indictment alleges that Nawaz and Choudhry participated in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture by accepting EBT cards (used to redeem Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP – benefits, also known as food stamps) in exchange for synthetic marijuana. According to the indictment, Nawaz and Choudhry also allowed customers to use multiple EBT cards belonging to other individuals to buy synthetic marijuana using SNAP benefits.
Among the examples cited in the indictment, Nawaz allegedly sold packages of synthetic marijuana on two separate occasions to a customer who used three separate EBT cards each time. Those transactions were fraudulently processed as food sales, totaling $987 for the first transaction and $1,243 for the second transaction.
Nawaz and Choudhry are also charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana and a money-laundering conspiracy.
In addition to the conspiracy counts, Nawaz is charged with four counts of aiding and abetting Choudhry to commit wire fraud related to the transfer of SNAP benefits. Choudhry is also charged with one count of aiding and abetting Nawaz to commit wire fraud.
The federal indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Nawaz and Choudhry to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including $52,460.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Caine. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General and the Independence, Mo., Police Department.