A 53-year-old Baltimore man was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to food stamp and wire fraud, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Between 2010 and 2016, Kassem Mohammad Hafeed gave cash to customers of his Yemen Grocery, in the 1400 block of W. Lombard St. in Union Square, in exchange for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits, normally paying them half of what the benefits were worth, prosecutors said.
Hafeed would then redeem the benefits — intended to provide low-income individuals with debit cards that can be used to purchase fruits, vegetables, and other grocery staples — at full value from the government, and deposit the cash in his bank account, according to prosecutors.
Trading SNAP benefits for cash is a violation of program rules and regulations.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett handed down the sentence Tuesday, ordering Hafeed to pay $1,532,642 in restitution.
Allison Levine, Hafeed’s attorney, declined to comment Wednesday.
Hafeed was one of more than a dozen Baltimore-area retailers from Glen Burnie to Park Heights who were charged in the summer of 2016 with defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture of more than $16 million through such illegal “food stamp trafficking” schemes. Law enforcement officials executed 36 search warrants and seized 46 bank accounts as part of the broad crackdown.
At least a dozen of the defendants in the case have pleaded guilty, and at least four others have been sentenced, according to prosecutors in May — resulting in more than $10 million in restitution orders. One man received an 18-month sentence, while another received a 51-month sentence