(KMOV) --- Two St. Louis area convenience store operators pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire and food stamp fraud.
Both Rami Mohammad, 32, and Jeylani Shariff Mowlana, 30, admitted they allowed defrauded food stamp cash to be funneled overseas.
Mohammad, is a citizen of Jordan who resides in O'Fallon, IL. He admitted that as manager of a convenience store in Washington Park, he accepted and redeemed food stamp benefits in exchange for lesser amounts of cash instead of eligible food items, which is prohibited by the federal regulations governing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and that he caused interstate wire transmissions in these transactions.
According to court documents, from January through September 2006, Tawakal Halal Grocery, under Jeylani Shariff Mowlana's ownership and management, redeemed $231,449 in food stamp benefits, but only reported $24,815 to the Missouri Department of Revenue. The difference was the result of illegal food stamp redemptions by Mowlana. The redemptions were illegal because Mowlana allowed food stamp benefits to be used for transactions other than for food items. This included Mowlana permitting customers to redeem food stamp benefits for the transfer of money overseas.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General Special Agent-in-Charge James L. Mendenhall said "We will continue to aggressively investigate the criminal activities of store owners and employees who abuse the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), and who deprive citizens of the St. Louis metropolitan area access to nutritious meals. As in this instance, we will continue to work in concert with our partners in Federal and state law enforcement to safeguard the integrity of USDA's food assistance programs."
Mowlana, 30, Denver, CO, formerly of the St. Louis area, pled guilty to one felony count of food stamp fraud Monday before United States District Judge Catherine D. Perry. He now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000, when he is sentenced on April 12, 2011.
Mohammad was informed by the court prior to his change of plea that he likely faces deportation upon completion of his sentence.