(STL.News) – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Ahmad Al Saleh (57, Tampa) has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and to make false statements to the USDA. Al Saleh faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Al Saleh and others engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the USDA by falsely representing that Al Saleh was the new owner of the Express Family Food Market (“EFFM”) in St. Petersburg, Florida. The USDA had approved EFFM to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) payments from customers. SNAP allows low income individuals to purchase eligible food items with federal funds through the use of a SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer card, which works like a debit card. Al Saleh falsely represented himself as the new owner of the EFFM so that the prior owner, who had been permanently disqualified from SNAP participation due to earlier SNAP fraud activity at the store location, could continue to operate and manage the store and continue to unlawfully redeem SNAP cards for cash. Al Saleh was also involved in the preparation and signature of numerous documents that falsely and fraudulently represented the terms of the alleged “sale” of EFFM to Al Saleh. In actuality, Al Saleh had no role in the management or operation of the store and had never paid to “purchase” the store.
This case was investigated by the USDA – Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the St. Petersburg Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.