Massachusetts: Haitian convenience store owner blames customers, then stands up judge on Christmas eve

EBT Nation! This is my go-to graphic for food stamp fraud stories when I can’t find a photo of the perp.

This may be the best food stamp fraud story we’ve posted all year! 

No Mohammads in this one however!

Note to new readers:  following immigrant-run convenience store fraud is a hobby here at RRW, and one that has recently yielded lots of juicy stories.    Click here for our entire archive.

This one is from Salem, Massachusetts where Haitian immigrant, Peter Jhonny Limat, has been found guilty of ripping off the Department of Agriculture (you the taxpayers) to the tune of an estimated half a million dollars at two convenience stores he owns.

But, what is so interesting is that his defense in court was that the customers made him do it—they were to blame for his stealing from the SNAP program.  In fact, the customers are also breaking the law as we saw in the story from Florida earlier this month (Operation Money Tree!), but the judge wasn’t buying that Limat wasn’t at fault.

This is the first story I saw at The Salem News published on December 24th.  Below you will get a chuckle out of story number two, published on December 28th (I was looking, unsuccessfully, for a photo of Limat when I found the update).  Emphasis below is mine:

SALEM — The owner of two small convenience stores in Salem and Lynn will be sentenced next month to two years in jail by a judge who said yesterday that Peter Jhonny Limat’s breach of the public trust warrants time behind bars.

“The money that pays for food stamps doesn’t come out of thin air,” said Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead. “It comes out of the pockets of working people, and it goes to people who supposedly cannot afford the necessities of life.”

But many of the customers at Limat’s two stores — Boston Street Market in Salem and J&M Mini Mart in Lynn — weren’t using their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP,” cards to buy food, Limat admitted earlier this month.

This is a really simple explanation for readers on how the scam is done:

Instead, prosecutors said, Limat, 38, of Lynn, would let people use the cards like they were using an ATM and then take half the money for himself. A customer who wanted $50, for example, would let Limat charge $100 to the card, which he would report as food sales. Each of them would get $50 in cash. The Department of Agriculture would then reimburse Limat for the full amount, sending the money directly to his bank account.


Over the course of a year, Limat conducted some $800,000 in food stamp transactions, prosecutor Phil Mallard told the judge earlier this month. More than half those transactions — a half-million dollars worth — were for purported food sales of more than $100, something Mallard argued was practically impossible given the limited inventory of both stores.   [Readers, just a reminder that the other day I mentioned that store inventory is a tip-off to investigators.—ed]

Limat’s tax return indicated he was raking in the dough in previous years.

But Nathan, a privately hired Boston defense attorney, argued that his client and his family are now struggling to get by.

The 2005 BMW that Limat bought needed a new transmission, and every cent Limat earns as a Haitian interpreter now goes to the state Department of Revenue to satisfy a state cigarette tax arrears, Nathan said.  [Sounds like he has more problems on top of food stamp fraud—ed]

Blame the customer!  His attorney cited the New York Times!

Both Nathan and Limat yesterday placed the blame on customers looking for cash.

“This ‘scam,’ according to a New York Times article, is a fraud committed by the person walking into the store,” Nathan said.

So the judge didn’t buy it and gave Limat a couple of weeks to get his affairs in order before he reports to jail, however, clearly fearing Limat would split the country the judge ordered Limat fitted with a GPS bracelet.  

Here is what happened next according to the update from The Salem News:

SALEM — On Monday, a judge gave Peter Jhonny Limat a chance to get his affairs in order before being sentenced in a food stamp fraud scheme.

There was one condition: He had to agree to return to court the next day to be fitted with a GPS bracelet to monitor his whereabouts until sentencing on Jan. 13, when he was scheduled to receive a two-year jail term.

He stood the judge up on Christmas eve!

When Limat, 38, of Lynn, failed to show up at the courthouse Tuesday for his bracelet, Judge Howard Whitehead waited for him all morning, then issued a warrant.

Still, the judge, known for his patience, wanted to give Limat the benefit of the doubt. Even though it was Christmas Eve, the judge remained at the courthouse until it closed at 4:30 p.m., on the chance Limat would show up.

A probation officer who had the day off even went by Limat’s home, where his wife said she hadn’t seen him since the day before.

When Limat finally turned up on Thursday with a list of excuses, the judge ran out of patience and put him in custody.

And yesterday, the judge decided to impose the two-year jail term immediately — even as Limat’s new attorney, Jean-Fresnel Josaphat, offered more excuses for Limat’s failure to show up.

No more excuses, as clearly the judge fears he might make a run for Haiti!

Josaphat pleaded with the judge to let Limat out of jail, saying his family has planned a birthday party for him on Dec. 29, and offering to surrender any documents he might need to leave the country and return to his native Haiti.

Previously, Limat had told the judge he’d lost his passport — an assertion Whitehead also cast doubt on yesterday.

Do you find it as fascinating as I do that crooks and liars, like this guy, are actually able to buy a couple of convenience stores, get permission from the Department of Agriculture to run the SNAP program in them, and go on for years before being caught?

If you suspect food stamp fraud in your neighborhood, click here for how to report it.

Endnote:  Limat’s story probably tops 2013, but this 2011 food stamp fraud story where Fatima tried to run out the back door with a suitcase full of money (and mom in tow), may be my all-time favorite.  Although a close second is this story from 2008 where the Arab American News noted that there were an awful lot of Arab names in these food stamp fraud cases!  Nah! said a US attorney, just a coincidence!

Turkey: Could Syrian refugees help bring down Erdogan government?

Sure looks like it is possible!   And, it would be one explanation for why Turkey is a sieve and allowing Syrians to move through the country and out the other side into Greece and Bulgaria (both countries having enormous problems with illegal migrants mostly from Syria, but even from places like Algeria coming through Turkey!).*

From The Daily Star (Lebanon).  Emphasis is mine:

BEIRUT: A corruption scandal in Turkey may see embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad outlast his Turkish adversary Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the latest sign Turkish foreign policy on Syria is undergoing a major recalibration, analysts say.


Former ally Turkey emerged as the most vocal opponent of the regime in Syria, which, after protests against Assad’s rule were brutally repressed by government forces, has become mired in an all-out civil war. Erdogan was one of the first international leaders to call for Assad to step down. Turkey also hosts some 600,000 refugees and has also provided safe haven and material assistance to Syrian military opponents.

Turkey opens door to radical Islamists?

Pals! Erdogan is considered to be Obama’s closest friend among world leaders.

More recently, Turkey’s apparent open door policy to rebels crossing the border to fight Assad has drawn criticism both at home and from its Western allies for allegedly providing a base and military assistance to radical Islamists affiliated with Al-Qaeda to launch their attacks. [Wasn’t there a suggestion that Obama was sending weapons for Syrians from Libya (Benghazi!) to Turkey?—ed]


Those concerns have seen Turkey adjust its policy on Syria by tightening border security and boosting intelligence operations, in what analysts say reflects an embarrassing about-face once it became apparent that Assad’s regime would not fall as quickly as Ankara had hoped.

Potential for anti-Syrian refugee rhetoric and hostility?

While the left-wing opposition remains weak in Turkey, the anti-intervention position on Syria is likely to gain traction and party support is strongly divided over the Syria refugee issue.

That raises the potential for a wave of anti-Syrian rhetoric and hostility toward the 600,000 refugees in Turkey, Ulgen said, similar to the backlash against Syrians that occurred in Egypt following the military’s post-revolutionary coup.

A public opinion poll conducted by EDAM to be released in January found that 86 percent of participants agreed that no further Syrian refugees should be allowed in the country, while only 11 percent believed Turkey should continue to take refugees.

Refugees taking jobs the Turks would like to do (it is the same the world over!):

Ozel (a newspaper columnist) added that he feared hostility toward Syrians would increase.

“The unofficial figures say there are 1 million Syrians here. They are scattered all over the place, they are dirt poor, they are working at a fraction of the price than the Turks doing the same job. Sooner or later it will cause social tensions and this government has done nothing to address that.”

There is a lot more in The Daily Star article worth reading.

*Type ‘Greece’ or ‘Bulgaria’ into our search function for more on the Muslim migration into those countries.

Milwaukee attracting more Somali refugees, Catholic Charities helps!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has publish a feel-good story about how successfully Somali Bantus are settling in to Wisconsin.  You can read the opening yourself about one boy who becomes the first Somali in Wisconsin to go to college.  We are told that he changed his last name from Mursal to Mohamad.

The article follows with some nuggets of information on the program with a reference to Catholic Charities role in the resettlement.

According to the state’s Department of Children and Families, the first wave of Somali refugees began arriving in 1995. Since then the federal government has resettled approximately 700 Somali in Wisconsin, primarily in Brown, Barron, Dane and Milwaukee counties.

The largest population — about 400 people —lives in Milwaukee, said Joe Scialfa, communications director for DCF.

But Ussuf Mursal, Mohamad’s brother, who works at Catholic Social Services refugee program, thinks the actual number is considerably larger. He estimates as many as 1,300 Somalis are now living here.

There are about 250 families, he said, and most families have five or more children. For example, he said, he now has six children and his ex-wife has 11 children, including two of his. [I’m wondering if the ex-wife is an ex so that she can receive welfare benefits as a single mother?—ed]

With such large families, providing the necessary support is a strain, he said. And because so many Somali Bantu did not go to school, passing the U.S. citizenship test presents a problem. Still, many are getting established, buying homes and starting businesses.

Another Somali is quoted:

“We came here for security, education and a better life,” he said. He has 13 children, some grown, some who attend Riverside High School or Milwaukee Area Technical College.

And, he supports them all at his newly acquired halal grocery store.

Go here for more on Catholic Charities and refugees in Milwaukee.  Lutheran Social Services is their main competitor for contracts with the US State Department to bring refugees to this part of Wisconsin.

Graphic is from the Journal-Sentinel story.