Until some enterprising blogger comes along (or a real investigative reporter!) and writes exclusively about immigrant food stamp scams, I guess it’s my job to continue bringing stories like this one to your attention.
Utah is a “welcoming” state, so it’s no surprise that Middle Easterners (and a few others) have moved in to set up convenience stores and involve themselves in redistributing your wealth to their pocketbooks. See below* where to find information on the refugee resettlement program in Utah and type Salt Lake City into our search function because we have written about that city, and the state, on many occasions.
So here is the politically correct Associated Press food stamp fraud story I first saw in the San Francisco Chronicle (which tells us nothing really!). I knew this would be a good one so I went searching…
Here then is the story from Ogden, Utah’s home town paper, the Standard-Examiner:
OGDEN — A pair of federal indictments unsealed Tuesday allege a dozen people linked to two Ogden convenience stores participated in an elaborate food stamp scam that netted about $8.6 million in USDA benefits.
The stores named in the indictment handed down by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City are Westside Valley Market, 873 W. 24th St., and 9th Street Corner Market, 1390 9th St.
Individuals arrested in connection with Westside Valley Market include:
• Zia Atta, 38, of Ogden.
• Aweas Akbar Al-Quadri, 21, of Ogden.
• Naseer Hamad Durani, 39, of Rocklin, Calif.
• Farad Said Farani, 36, of Ogden.
• Mariana Navarro Farani, 29, of Ogden.
• Seraj Ghasem Pour Babakandi, 23, of West Haven.
• Shershah Lodin, 39, of Pittsburg, Calif.
Those arrested in connection with 9th Street Corner Market include Atta and:
• Masood Aziz, 36, of Elk Grove, Calif.
• Diana Funez, 19, of Ogden.
• Fidel Funez-Limon, 18, of Ogden.
• Sharara Haidari, 30, of Elk Grove, Calif.
• Siavosh Sabri, 41, of Salt Lake City.
The stores are also named as defendants in the indictment.
The defendants face multiple counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; wire fraud; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits Program fraud; access device fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and money laundering.
The defendants from Utah will make their first appearance in federal court today. If convicted, they face prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years on most of the charges and fines of $250,000.
This is the first time I’ve seen a case where the seizure of homes may well follow:
Federal prosecutors are seeking the seizure of homes in Elk Grove, Thornton and Marysville, Calif.; a home and commercial property in Ogden; several bank accounts; and judgments totaling $7.7 million. [I bet most of the money is already out of the country—ed]
Then I don’t often see ICE involved so some of the perps must not be in the US legally (deport them after doing prison time!).
The investigation involving the stores is being handled by the USDA, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security and the Ogden Police Department.
Update: Fox13 has some photos of those arrested. Looks like a couple of Hispanics in the mix.
* Utah takes about 1000 refugees a year, most go to Salt Lake City. My theory is that where there are burgeoning immigrant populations on food stamps, these scammers set up business. For information on the refugee program in Utah, go here (Refugee Services Office). Note that it isn’t the Mormon church bringing in the refugees, but Catholic Charities and the secular International Rescue Committee. You can check out stats for Utah at that site or visit WRAPS (affiliated with the US State Department) for which refugees went to what cities in Utah, here.
Come back soon! I’ve got a new scam story from Buffalo, NY, a city with a declining Jewish and Christian population, and hope to get to it later today! ****Update**** Here it is! Finally got around to it—a new scam on a citywide level busted by a police sting operation.