Baltimore Shopkeeper Gets 27 Months in Prison, Owes $1.5M for Food Stamp Fraud

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: A grocery store advertises that they accept food stamps in the South Bronx on September 19, 2013 in New York City. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, over a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making the 16th …
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KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

A judge sentenced a Baltimore shopkeeper last week to 27 months behind bars for trafficking $1.5 million in food stamps.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Kassem Mohammad Hafeed, 53, to 27 months in federal prison and three years supervised release January 2 for committing food stamp fraud and wire fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Maryland.

Bennett also ordered Hafeed to pay the illegally obtained $1,532,642 back to the federal government.

Prosecutors say, between 2010 and 2016, Hafeed orchestrated a scheme where he allowed his customers at Yemen Grocery to trade their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash.

When a SNAP recipient used their benefits, he paid his customers half of what the benefits were worth, prosecutors say.

The store owner then redeemed the full amount of the benefits charged on the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and pocketed the money into his bank accounts.

Hafeed was one of several defendants charged with illegal food stamp trafficking in the summer of 2016, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The defendants were altogether charged with trafficking $16 million worth of food stamp benefits. At least twelve defendants pleaded guilty, and at least four others have already been sentenced.

One of the other defendants was sentenced to four years in federal prison in May and had been ordered to pay back the government the $3.7 million he stole.

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