Tampa, Florida – US District Judge Steven D. Merryday has sentenced Ahmad Al Saleh (59, Tampa) to 12 months in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud and to make false statements to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The court also ordered Al Saleh to make restitution to the USDA in the amount of $654,502.28.
According to court documents, Al Saleh joined in a conspiracy to defraud the USDA and to make false statements to the USDA in 2015 when he agreed to make false and fraudulent representations to the USDA that he was buying a St. Petersburg convenience store that was enrolled to accept USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program benefits. SNAP is a program that supplements the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. After the USDA prohibited the prior owner of the store from accepting any SNAP benefit purchases and prohibited him from even working at the store, he joined with Al Saleh and others to create false records and representations that Al Saleh had bought the store and that Al Saleh was operating it himself. In reality, the previous store owner continued to operate and manage the store and make profits from it, paying Al Saleh a small fee for the use of Al Saleh’s name as the store owner on USDA documents. During the time that the prior owner was still operating the store under the supposed ownership of Al Saleh, the prior owner committed numerous acts of SNAP benefits trafficking, during which he bought SNAP benefits from customers and paid for them in cash. The court determined that the losses which the previous owner caused to the SNAP program while engaging in this conduct during the time period of the supposed “ownership” of Al Saleh was at least $654,502.84.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture -Office of Inspector General, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance from the St. Petersburg Police. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.