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Somali market owners charged with food stamp fraud in Ohio

Investigators say two brothers sold ineligible items or paid cash for federal food assistance benefits through their Sullivant Avenue market. Fraudulent

by Marc Kovac Feb 24th · 1 min read

Investigators say two brothers sold ineligible items or paid cash for federal food assistance benefits through their Sullivant Avenue market. Fraudulent purchases totaled about $10 million over nearly a decade, according to court documents.

The owners of a Somali market on Sullivant Avenue were charged in federal court in Columbus Friday with defrauding food-assistance programs of more than $10 million over nine years.

Prosecutors say Abdurahim Nuriso, of the Southwest Side, and his brother, Hassan, of Grove City, converted food stamp and other benefits into cash or accepted them for ineligible purchases at their Towfiq Market.

According to a 19-page indictment, the Nurisos would purchase customers’ benefit credits or sell ineligible items through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Women, Infants and Children programs. Federal law prohibits such transactions or the use of food stamp benefits for alcohol, tobacco products, cleaning products and other items.

Court documents outline dozens of instances where Abdurahim Nuriso exchanged food stamp benefits for shampoo, calling cards, a dish scrubbers, hookah pipes and other items not allowed under the programs or to pay off store credit, according to court documents.

At different times, investigators noted instances when Abdurahim Nuriso told customers that he could not complete transactions or pay for benefits because “he was being watched” and “the government was watching all Somalis,” according to documents. One customer told investigators that others regularly sold “WIC and food stamp benefits for United States currency.”

The indictment also noted that Hassan Nuriso was present during at least one of the transactions.

Investigators said the activities took place from from about October 2010 through April 2019 and involved $8 million-plus in SNAP transactions and nearly $2.1 million in WIC benefits.

A federal grand jury charged both brothers with five felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, unlawful food stamp redemptions and theft of public funds.

Each count carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors also are seeking the forfeiture of more than $240,000 seized from the brothers, including cash found at their homes and their business and from bank accounts.

last updated: 2020-02-24@19:02