Independence Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Distributing K2, Accepting Food Stamps
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Timothy A. Garrison, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the owner of two Independence, Mo., stores pleaded guilty in federal court today to distributing controlled substance analogues, synthetic cannabinoids also known as K2, and for accepting food stamps as payment for K2.
Haq Nawaz Choudhry, 53, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Greg Kays to participating in a conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and controlled substance analogue, and to participating in a money-laundering conspiracy. Choudhry is the president of H Habib Enterprises, Inc., which owned 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 Choudhry.
According to today’s plea agreement, an undercover Jackson County Drug Task Force detective and three people conducting undercover transactions on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture made a series of purchases from both Short Stop and Kerns from Feb. 14 to Oct. 22, 2013. The undercover purchases used cash on some occasions, and EBT cards (used to redeem Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP – benefits, also known as food stamps) on other occasions, to purchase synthetic cannabinoids.
During the course of the investigation Choudhry concealed the sale of synthetic cannabinoids by conducting financial transactions through the point-of-sale terminal, using EBT cards. The purchases would routinely be processed as “food purchases” with funds electronically deposited into the company’s bank account, thus concealing the proceeds of the controlled substance analogue sales. Choudhry specifically admitted, for example, that he fraudulently processed a $46.50 purchase of synthetic cannabinoids using SNAP benefits on May 30, 2013.
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Kern’s and Short Stop on Oct. 22, 2013. Officers recovered synthetic cannabinoids and drug paraphernalia from both businesses. Officers also seized $21,135 from Short Stop and $308 from Kerns. Choudhry was not present during the execution of the warrant. On Feb. 11, 2014, officers returned to Kerns and Short Stop based on a complaint that the business was selling K2 again. Choudhry was contacted and denied that any such sales were occurring, and gave written permission for the detectives and officers on scene to search both of his stores for illegal items. Officers recovered additional synthetic cannabinoids and drug paraphernalia from Kerns. Officers also seized $6,000 from Kerns.
The court will determine the final amount of a money judgment against Choudhry for his financial gain from these illegal activities. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the $27,443 seized by law enforcement officers will be credited toward the final judgment amount.
Under federal statutes, Choudhry is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
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.