PROVIDENCE — The last 3 of 11 convenience store retailers charged in a federal food-stamp scam pleaded guilty Friday and now face possible prison time, federal officials say.
Asra Qadir and Waqif Qadir, owners of Express Food Mart, in Warwick, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the food-stamp program, as did Amir Rasheed, owner of Step & Go convenience store, in Providence. All three are scheduled to be sentenced in May.
The arrest of all 11 suspects resulted from a two-year federal investigation into food-stamp fraud, first announced in September. Officials said the fraud resulted in the theft of more than $3 million from the program designed to provide food to many of the state’s neediest residents.
The merchants allegedly allowed food-stamp recipients to trade their benefits for cash. In exchange, the merchants are accused of adding a substantial surcharge for the illegal service, frequently as much as the cash that was dispensed. Under federal law, food stamps are not allowed to be used to get cash, tobacco products or other goods with no nutritional benefits.
All 11 convenience store retailers have now pleaded guilty, officials say, and some sentencing has begun.
In December, federal U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisa sentenced Cristina Ramirez, owner of Cristina’s Market , in Providence, to 12 months in prison and ordered her to pay $399,000 in restitution to the food-stamp program.
That same month, Lisi also sentenced Glenda Lopez, owner of the Dugout convenience store, in Providence, to 18 months in federal prison and ordered her to pay $398,000 in restitution to the food-stamp program.
Six other suspects are awaiting sentencing. Officials identified them as:
Mashhod Afzal, an employee at Stop & Go, in Providence, and the store’s manager, Karuna Mehta.
Mohamad Barbour, manager of Corner Store, in Providence, and that store’s owner, Mustafa Al Kabouni.
Mohammad Amir Al Kabouni and Muhammad Eid Al Kabouni, employees of the Regency Mart convenience store, in Providence.
Previous arrests here.
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