Providence RI: Nine indicted for food stamp fraud; three Mohamads in the bunch

The Mohammed/Mohamad coefficient in this story from Rhode Island is high, but it also includes some Hispanics among those charged (which is something I haven’t seen very often).  Thanks to ‘pungentpeppers,’ who is finding some great (if you can call them ‘great’, you know what I mean) immigrant crime stories for us, for spotting this one on Thursday.

From the Providence Journal which published this illustrative graphic that the US Attorney used to show those of us who don’t have a criminal mind how the scam works (right).

PROVIDENCE — A two-year federal investigation into food-stamp fraud has resulted in nine merchants involved withfive convenience stores in the city being charged in connection with the theft of more than $3 million from the program designed to provide food to many of the state’s neediest residents.

Peter F. Neronha, U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, announced at a news conference Thursday with a host of other federal and state officials the charges involving the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP.

The merchants allegedly allowed food-stamp recipients to trade their benefits for cash. In exchange, the merchants are accused of adding a substantial surcharge for the illegal service, frequently as much as the cash that was dispensed. Under federal law, food stamps are not allowed to be used to get cash, tobacco products or other goods that do not provide nutritional benefits.

“Some chose to line their own pockets to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense,” Neronha said.

Naming names:

The businesses are Corner Store, 549B Broad St.; Regency Mart, 3 Regency Plaza; Stop & Go Inc., 776 Douglas Ave.; Dugout, 97 Burnside St.; and Cristina’s Market, 524 Smith St.

Arrested are Mustafa Al Kabouni, 52, of Cranston; Mohamad Barbour, 53, of North Providence; Mohamad Amir Al Kabouni, 43, of North Providence; and Mohamad Eid Al Kabouni, 22, of Cranston. The Kabounis and Barbour owned or ran Regency Mart and Corner Store.

Also, Amir Rasheed, 33, of Flushing, N.Y.; Karuna Mehta, 43, of North Smithfield; Cristina Ramirez, 37, of Providence; Glena Lopez, 39, of West Warwick; and Farhan Mustafa, 37, of Providence.

Rasheed is owner of Stop & Go, while Mehta managed the store. Ramirez owns Cristina’s Market. Mustafa is accused of falsely filing an application with the government for the food-stamp program claiming that his corporation owned the Corner Store.

They have all been indicted by a federal grand jury or charged through information filings in connection with fraud.

As is the usual case, the story has nothing about the immigration status of the perps.  Someone really needs to figure out through what program(s) all of these immigrants are using to set up the convenience stores.  I don’t think its a coincidence that ‘Mom & Pop’ groceries are increasingly owned/managed by foreign interests.

Tied to cigarette smuggling?  The Providence Journal continued:

In recent years, the state police and federal authorities have arrested operators of convenience stores in Providence on charges that they have illegally imported cigarettes from out of state and sold them illegally. Cigarettes have high taxes in Rhode Island and they are among the most expensive packs and cartons in the country. As a result, stores smuggle them into the state, sell them and make big profits.

Neronha did not provide specifics, but said he believes there is some “cross-over” between the food-stamp fraud and cigarette-smuggling operations.

Where to report possible food stamp fraud in you town?

Click here for instructions.

For more on food stamp fraud (a side interest here at RRW) go here.

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