Illinois grocer sentenced for $844,000 food stamp fraud

Raquel Erhard – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Chicago, IL, United States (4E) – A 48-year-old grocer from Lake County, Illinois has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison recently for defrauding government food stamp and nutrition programs of more than $844,000 for over two years.

According to a press release, Khaled Saleh, the owner of Sunset Food Market in Waukegan, has been charged with illegally exchanging cash with customers using food stamp cards and nutrition coupons.

The Salehs were arrested in May 2011 and both pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to defraud government programs.

Investigators revealed that Saleh, along with his 37-year-old wife, Fatima Saleh, paid customers about half the value in cash for goods bought at other stores using their benefits. The suspects then re-sold the same items in their store at a much higher price.

Officials reported that an undercover agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, repeatedly exchanged food stamp benefits for cash and used benefits to buy formula at a store, which he then re-sold for half the price in cash to the Salehs.

The government forfeited $391,616 in cash and bank account funds that were seized from the Salehs, and Khaled Saleh was ordered to pay $453,013 in restitution for the remaining balance.

Fatima Saleh’s sentencing has been postponed to March 22.

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