An Alexandria man, already in jail for allegedly trying to kill his girlfriend’s unborn baby, now stands accused of racketeering, more than $1 million in food-stamp fraud and more.
Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell announced the March 14 arrest of 25-year-old Mohammad Z. Abudayeh at a Wednesday morning press conference.
“The reason this is so important to the people of our parish, the people of our state, is because the taxpayers deserve to not have people steal the benefits that are meant for people who are less fortunate, the people who really deserve them,” said Terrell as he was surrounded by investigators from his office, Louisiana State Police and the Department of Children and Family Services.
“Additionally, certainly, stealing from poor people, in our minds, is about as low as you can get.”
Abudayeh remains in the Rapides Parish Detention Center on the new charges of unauthorized use of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits, computer fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
On Wednesday, his defense attorney filed a motion to withdraw as his representative. And, on the same day he was arrested by Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations’ Insurance Fraud Unit investigators, the DA’s office was granted a motion to seize two of his bank accounts at Evangeline Bank and Trust Co.
Abudayeh initially was arrested by the Alexandria Police Department on March 6. The department had started an unrelated investigation that week after detectives received “credible information” that Abudayeh had tried to hire a man to kill the fetus.
According to the department, the man had been instructed to make it appear to be a robbery and that the attack should be concentrated on the woman’s stomach area.
Tiffany Sanders had been representing Abudayeh, filing three motions on March 12 relating to the attempted feticide case before she filed motions on Wednesday to withdraw herself as his attorney and those motions.
Then, on March 14, Abudayeh was arrested by Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations’ Insurance Fraud Unit investigators.
Terrell said during the press conference that this investigation had been underway for about eight months. A state police release sent after the press conference said it began in June 2018.
Abudayeh owns the Food Mart, 2512 3rd St. in Alexandria, according to the release. Investigators allege that, between October 2017 and March, the store conducted more than $1.2 million in Louisiana Purchase electronic benefit transfer transactions, “which was well above the amount a store that size should be conducting,” it reads.
Investigators identified Abudayeh as a suspect during the investigation. They served search warrants for the store, his home in the 500 block of Post Oak Boulevard and a location on Perry Street in Alexandria, according to the release and the motion for seizure filed by the DA’s office.
After the search warrants were served, investigators seized 11 cases of alcohol that had been stolen from a local grocery store and $340,000 in cash, according to the release. Terrell said a firearm and “a quantity of a controlled dangerous substance” also were found.
The seizure motion provides a little more detail about what official allege was happening at the store, which at the intersection of 3rd Street and Broadway Avenue.
Perry Street runs parallel to Broadway Avenue on the other side of the store.
The motion states that Abudayeh was exchanging cash for EBT benefits and making fraudulent charges to SNAP. It lists the date the operation began as June 21, 2018.
The motion, which was granted, sought to seize the two accounts “which are believed to contain money from the illegal proceeds from fraudulent charges on the SNAP point-of-sale machines,” it reads.
Officials believe more accounts may be involved and asked for the warrant to cover “any and all accounts or safe deposit boxes” belonging to Abudayeh, The Food Mart, Hamada Grocery Inc. or Sam’s Grocery Inc.
The store is in good standing with the state, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website. Abudayeh is listed as a store’s agent and director. It’s listed as Hamada Grocery Inc.
Other agencies involved in the investigation were Alexandria Police, Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), the Louisiana Department of Health and the Alexandria City Marshal’s Office.
Anyone who wants to report suspected illegal matters to state police can visit http://lsp.org/ and click the “Suspicious Activity” link.