CLEVELAND -- Two Brook Park men were sentenced to more than four years in prison for defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) from four Cleveland stores where they accepted food stamps for ineligible items such as beer and cigarettes, according to U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach.
Brothers Saed (Sam) Wahdan, 42, and Maher (Mario) Wahdan, 43, were each sentenced to 54 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution.
They pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, one count of food stamp fraud and two counts of unlawful redemption of food stamps. Maher Wahdan also pleaded guilty to an additional count of theft of public funds.
"These defendants used a program designed to help hungry people to instead line their pockets," Dettelbach said. "We will continue to work eradicate waste, fraud and abuse of government programs."
Nidal Jaber, 46, also of Brook Park, was sentenced to 10 months of home confinement for his role in the conspiracy.
Between January 2008 and March 2012, the Wahdans and others conspired to commit food-stamp fraud through four of their businesses: One Stop Beverage, 5105 Franklin Blvd.; Bridge Deli and Beverage, 4700 Bridge Ave.; Franklin Beverage and Deli, 4719 Franklin Blvd., and Scott Food Mart, 951 Linn Drive, according to court documents.
The Wahdans owned and operated all four stores but put them in the names of other people to conceal the fact that Saed Wahdan had a prior conviction for food stamp trafficking and Maher Wahdan had a prior conviction for impersonating an officer – both of which precluded their participation in the food stamp program, according to court documents.
The defendants used their businesses to exchange customer food stamps for cash and other unauthorized items, including beer and cigarettes. They also purchased food stamp cards from customers and used them at other grocery locations to purchase inventory for their stores and for their personal use, according to court documents.