Food stamp and government assistance programs are a necessity in any economic conditions, as there will always be people that will need to utilize these programs to survive until they can improve their situation. Unfortunately, welfare is a big target for fraud, with people lying about their financial status to receive benefits and business owners who prey upon welfare recipients because they know these folks are desperate and need the money.
During his campaign, President Trump made it a point to declare he would work very hard to get people off of welfare and back to work, as well as punish those who take advantage of the system. Taking a look at the Trump administration’s performance with cracking down on welfare fraud in 2017, it seems the President has made good on this campaign promise.
A prime example of this crackdown on welfare fraud can be seen with the arrest of three Muslim brothers, Emad, Jawad, and Khader Karaein, who ran the Middle Eastern Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The three brothers were involved in a food stamp scam that bilked taxpayers’ for $736,000 with EBT, and an additional $544,000 from the WIC program. The money was stolen over the course of nine years and took away money from people who truly needed it. According to the Justice Department, “One fraudulent scheme alleged against them was that they allowed customers receiving federal subsistence benefits to obtain cash and other prohibited items in exchange for the federal funds allotted to the customers.
This fraudulent activity resulted in a large amount of federal welfare money being deposited into the MEM bank account.” Adding insult to injury the Karaein brothers’ signed up for food stamp assistance themselves while they were encouraging others to defraud the system. The end result was that the brothers received a combined prison sentence of seven years and restitution of about $2.5 million needs to be repaid.
Investigators under the direction of the Trump administration continued to find numerous instances where food stamp fraud was taking place. Millions of dollars were being misappropriated with the help of small convenience stores located in predominantly poor neighborhoods. The following seven cases are the pinnacle of the work the Trump administration has concluded to rid our welfare system of fraud and abuse.
- George Rafidi, 62, and owner of Breaden Market convenience store in Ohio stole $2.8 million worth of food stamps where he allowed food stamp recipients to get cash instead of food. Investigators with the USDA were alerted to Mr. Rafidi’s illegal activity when it was revealed in an audit that his store was cashing in on the SNAP program at a rate ten times higher than larger stores in the area. Mr. Rafidi was sentenced to 33 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $2.8 million.
- In Florida, multiple people were charged and arrested for defrauding the SNAP program, (supplemental nutrition assistance program) after the Division of Public Assistance Fraud and Florida’s Department of Children and Families discovered more than $20 million worth of food stamp fraud, committed by individuals’ lying on their SNAP applications.
- In probably one of the most notable food stamp fraud cases of 2017, Mohammad Shafiq, from Baltimore, was sentenced to 4 years in prison after he was found guilty of pilfering $3.7 million from the SNAP program. Mr. Shafiq was one of 14 other Baltimore business owners who stole a combined $16 million. All 14, including Mr. Shafiq received prison sentences and were ordered to pay restitution.
- Kanwar Gill, Raviinder Gill, and George Nance, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were sent to prison and ordered to pay restitution after law enforcement discovered the trio were using their Quick N EZ convenience store to defraud the SNAP program. The trio came to the attention of law enforcement after they had amassed $1.2 million in cash SNAP benefits, which was highly irregular for such a small store.
- Seven women in South Carolina, who were involved in a multi-million dollar SNAP fraud scheme were arrested ordered to pay restitution when it was discovered that they were working with store owners to use SNAP benefits for cash. The seven women were each ordered to pay $20,000 each in restitution, while the store owners who were responsible for the scheme, must pay back a staggering $5 million and serve a prison term of five years.
- In one of the largest welfare scams of 2017, a fundamentalist Mormon sect defrauding the American taxpayer of $11 million worth of SNAP benefits. The Mormon sect responsible for the theft, diverted benefits to several warehouses while using front companies in an attempt to hide the fraud.
- Ali Ratib Daham, an Iraqi immigrant from Maine, defrauded the SNAP program of $1.4 million. Mr. Daham’s scam was similar to others, where he gave SNAP beneficiaries cash for their food stamps, and then redeemed the full value of the food stamps to further line his pockets. Mr. Daham is facing a prison term of 20 years, plus having to pay restitution.
The aforementioned cases are just a small sampling of the rampant fraud, which was previously allowed to take place with the SNAP program. Now that President Trump and his administration have sent a clear message to these and other criminals, it is likely that the instances of fraud with the SNAP program will be greatly reduced.
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