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de Facto Owner

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Not one to take no for an answer, Almahde Nijmeh was not going to let a mere disqualification get in the way of defrauding the U.S. taxpayer. Nijmeh had already been debarred by the Social Security Administration department from participating as a SNAP retailer. But re-gained admittance into the program by re-applying using the names of various family members. Gaming the system. That’s what family is for.

After being denied multiple times, Nijmeh had put the store property and the SNAP license in the names of other family members. Court documents, however, state Nijmeh was the de facto owner and operator of the shop business. Fraudsters don’t need paperwork to show whose boss! Nijmeh used East Side Meat Market in East St. Louis to accept SNAP cards loaded with benefits in exchange for cash and other ineligible items from at least August 2017 through November 2021.

Nijmeh and employees under his direction routinely purchased SNAP cards from customers in exchange for cash equal to 50% or less of the benefits. They also accepted SNAP benefits for ineligible items like alcohol and tobacco products, at times up-charging customers for the illegal transactions. Meaning, customers would pay more for the ineligible items purchased with SNAP benefits than they would if purchasing the same item with cash. In total, Nijmeh acquired $1,239,546.79 in fraudulently obtained SNAP proceeds.

This time, however, Nijmeh iss more than just disqualified. He has been sentenced to five years in federal prison and must pay full restitution of $1.2 million.

Shout out to the Department of Agriculture in shutting down this fraud.

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Swansea business owner ordered to repay $1.2 million in stolen SNAP benefits” published by the Belleville News Democrat on March 1, 2024

A federal judge ordered a metro-east business owner to repay the government more than $1.2 million after he admitted to using his small grocery in a fraud scheme to obtain SNAP benefits. Almahde H. Nijmeh, 65, of Swansea, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful acquisition of SNAP benefits in August 2023.

In addition to repaying the government, Nijmeh was sentenced to five years in federal prison and two years of supervised release. “Millions of Americans rely on SNAP benefits to provide nutritious food for their families, but individuals who misuse the program to commit fraud and enrich themselves are breaking federal law,” said Rachelle Aud Crowe, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

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