By Charles Sercombe
There may be more markets charged in the food stamp fraud investigation.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, Gina Balaya, confirmed what several residents reported last Tuesday, that more than the six markets charged by investigators were raided.
Balaya said she could not identify those markets because the investigation is ongoing, but said more arrests are likely.
Last Tuesday, 11 people, most of whom live in Hamtramck, were charged with food stamp fraud. Formal charges are also pending. If convicted, they each face spending up to 20 years in prison.
Balaya said the IRS is also part of the investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that during the time of its investigation, $12.5 million was defrauded from the government.
The Review obtained a copy of a criminal complaint filed against one of the markets, Maloncho Greens House, which says that with the help of a cooperating witness, investigators became aware of fraud being committed starting in January 2014 through this past August.
The origin of the investigation came from several sources, including documents, electronic databases, witnesses and other law enforcement officers.
All of the markets raided are owned by Bengali-Americans, but Balaya said she did not know if that was a coincidence or part of a network that was uncovered.
The scam worked this way: Those with a Bridge Card, or other similar food stamp program, would get cash instead of food items from the market. But market owners, in turn, would add an additional charge to the card for themselves to take.
In other words, if card holders asked for $50, market owners, or employees, would tack on an addition $50 for the service.
It is illegal to receive cash back from the cards.
News of the raids and arrests “embarrassed” a number of Bengali-Americans, said Shahab Ahmed, a former Hamtramck City Councilmember and local business owner.
“It is a slap to hard-working members of the community,” he said. ‘This is not how the Bengali community lives. Most are honest and hard-working.”
The following markets and individuals were charged in federal court:
Al Amin Supermarket, 11920 Conant, owner Moklasur Mukul, age 36, of Hamtramck.
Bengal American Grocery, 9800 Jos. Campau, manager Mohamed Ali, age 38, resident of Detroit.
Deshi Bazar, 12045 Conant, owners Ali Ahmed, age 31, and Nazir Ahmed, age 32, and employee Mustak Ahmed, age 34, all residents of Detroit.
Maloncho Greens House, 12133 Conant, owner Azizur Ullah, age 37, of Hamtramck, and employees Mohammed Chadek, age 44, Mohammed Miah, age 38, and Mohammed Amin, age 38, residents of Hamtramck.
New Al-Madeena Grocery, 2220-2222 Caniff, owner Dilshad Chowdhury, age 34, resident of Hamtramck.
Pay-Less Foods, 11350 Jos. Campau, owner Mohamed Ahmed, age 58, resident of Hamtramck.