Two Brook Park men pleaded guilty Monday to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) out $2 million from four Cleveland stores where they accepted food stamps for ineligible items such as beer and cigarettes, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Saed (Sam) Wahdan, 41, and his brother, Maher (Mario) Wahdan, 42, each pleaded guilty one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and two counts of unlawful redemption of food stamps. Maher Wahdan also pleaded guilty to an additional count of theft of public funds.
"The food stamp program has provided nutritious food to thousands of hungry families over the years," Dettelbach said. "We will continue to work to recover money stolen from the program and eradicate waste, fraud and abuse of government programs."
The Wahdans are scheduled to be sentenced on April 24, 2014.
Nidal Jaber, 45, also of Brook Park, was also indicted for his role in the conspiracy. His charges are pending.
Between January 2008 and March 2012, the Wahdans and others conspired to commit more than $2 million in food-stamp fraud through four of their businesses: One Stop Beverage, 5105 Franklin Blvd.; Bridge Deli and Beverage, 4700 Bridge Ave.; Franklin Beverage and Deli, 4719 Franklin Blvd., and Scott Food Mart, 951 Linn Drive.
The Wahdans owned and operated all four stores but put them in the names of other people to conceal the fact that Saed Wahdan had a prior conviction for food stamp trafficking and Maher Wahdan had a prior conviction for impersonating an officer – both of which precluded their participation in the food stamp program, according to court documents.
The defendants used their businesses to exchange customer food stamps for cash and other unauthorized items, including beer and cigarettes. They also purchased food stamp cards from customers and used them at other grocery locations to purchase inventory for their stores and for their personal use, according to court documents.
The indictment seeks to forfeit property derived from the proceeds of the criminal conduct of the Wahdans, including the following Cleveland properties: 9604 Dennison Ave.; 3353 West 44th Street; 3374 West 130th Street; 1452 West 75th Street and 951 Linn Drive.