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Downtown store owner sentenced in food stamp fraud scheme

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 5:12 p.m. MDT

One of the owners of a downtown convenience store accused of illegally redeeming $1.3 million in federally subsidized food benefits for cash received probation Monday.

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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the owners of a downtown convenience store accused of illegally redeeming $1.3 million in federally subsidized food benefits for cash received probation Monday.

Abdul Subur Mumtaz Mullahkehl, 37, admitted he allowed customers at AJ's Kwik Mart, 268 S. Main, to redeem their food stamp cards for cash with a nominal purchase of food or nonfood items, including cigarettes. Store clerks would give customers about half the card value in cash and put the rest in a bank account to share.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Mullahkehl played a minor role in the scheme, receiving about $1,000 in a one-year period. He pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud.

U.S. District Judge David Sam sentenced Mullahkehl to 36 months' probation and ordered him to 50 hours of community service at the Utah Food Bank.

A federal grand jury in 2011 returned a 20-count indictment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 13 counts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan benefits fraud, and five counts of money laundering.

SNAP cards act like limited ATM cards, meant for the purchase of eligible food items and may not be redeemed for cash. The cards are subsidized through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service and administered locally through the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Three other defendants — Muhammed Omar Mullahkhel, Ajmal Omar Mullahkhel and Bilqis Shahnaz Mullahkhel — have reached plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing. They also must forfeit $617,000 as part of the agreements.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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