PITTSBURGH - An owner of a local retail food store has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of wire fraud and food stamp fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Samson Dweh, owner and operator of Mariama African Store on Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, Pa., was indicted on March 27,2013, on six counts of wire fraud and 35 counts of food stamp fraud.
According to the indictment presented to the court, the defendant's retail store participates in the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. Food stamp recipients could purchase eligible food items using food stamp benefit cards at the defendant's retail stores. As a condition of participation in the Food Stamp Program, the defendant certified that he would comply with all rules and regulations of the program and was aware that program rules strictly prohibit the exchange of food stamp benefits for cash and/or ineligible items. Despite this knowledge, on multiple occasions, the defendant exchanged food stamp benefits for cash on a discounted basis, usually giving the customers only 50 cents on the dollar for their food stamp benefits. The defendant also permitted food stamp customers to purchase ineligible items with food stamp benefits and accepted food stamp benefits as payment on credit accounts and loans.
The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman is prosecuting these cases on behalf of the government.
The Office of the Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.