Waltham Store Manager Arraigned in Connection with EBT Fraud
BOSTON – The manager of a Waltham convenience store has been arraigned in connection with the fraudulent use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known commonly as “food stamps,” Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office announced today.
Hassan Mounajed, age 30, of Fall River, was arraigned today in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of Procurement Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Procurement Fraud, Larceny by False Pretenses, Access Device Fraud Over $100 and Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud. At the arraignment, Mounajed pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $1,000, with the condition that he surrender his passport.
In November 2011, the AG’s Office, in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), began an investigation into the fraudulent use of EBT SNAP cards. In April, State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and federal USDA agents executed a search warrant at Mirage Xpressway in Waltham. Further investigation revealed that Mounajed, also known as Sammi Hassan, was the manager of the Mirage Xpressway store in Waltham and was involved in an ongoing scheme to defraud the EBT SNAP program.
The Mirage Xpressway in Waltham is a convenience store that primarily sells beverages, candy and other convenience items. The store is authorized by the USDA to accept SNAP benefits from customers for eligible items. Authorities allege that Mounajed engaged in a scheme to traffic SNAP benefits in exchange for cash. As part of the scheme, a customer would present their EBT card to Mounajed or another store clerk. According to authorities, Mounajed or another clerk, per Mounajed’s instruction, would swipe the customer’s EBT card and enter fraudulent information on a dedicated EBT terminal indicating that a customer purchased groceries. Mounajed or the other clerks would allegedly furnish cash to the customer for half of the amount charged to their EBT card account. For example, if an EBT card customer wanted $50 in cash, Mounajed or the clerks would provide the customer with $50 cash and fraudulently enter a $100 grocery sale. The store account would subsequently be credited with $100 from the customer’s EBT SNAP account, providing the store with a $50 profit on the transaction.
The SNAP program does not allow cash to be exchanged in lieu of benefits.
On April 19, investigators arrested Pat Lu, owner of Pat’s Mini Mart in Quincy, in connection with his involvement in a similar scheme to defraud the EBT SNAP program. Lu was indicted on July 2 by a Statewide Grand Jury and arraigned in Norfolk Superior Court on July 16, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on $10,000 cash bail, with the condition he surrender his passport.
Also on April 19, a total of 21 individuals were charged in connection with illegally selling their SNAP benefits at certain Massachusetts locations. The AG’s office alleges these defendants knowingly accepted cash in lieu of groceries, defrauding the food stamp program.
Mounajed was indicted on October 11 by a Statewide Grand Jury. He was arraigned today in Middlesex Superior Court. He is due back in court on November 29 for a pre-trial conference.
These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Michael Pine of AG Coakley’s Public Integrity Division and Gabe Thornton from AG Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division, wish assistance from Victim Witness Advocate Shannon Legrice. This case was investigated by Financial Investigator Brian Bukuras of the AG’s Financial Investigations Division and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office. Investigators from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General also assisted in the investigation.