Flint Store Owner Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Food Stamp Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 09, 2013|
A 55-year-old Flint man was sentenced to more than four years in prison and more than $600,000 in restitution on January 8, 2013, for conspiring to commit food stamp fraud, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.
McQuade was joined in the announcement by Joe N. Smith, Special Agent in Charge of USDA-Office of Inspector General, and Robert D. Foley, III, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Detroit.
U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith sentenced Noha T. Fofana to 51 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Fofana was also ordered to pay $612,980.96 in restitution to the USDA-Food and Nutrition Service. This amount is to be paid jointly and severally with Fofana’s co-defendant, Akhir K. McFarland, who was sentenced on December 18, 2012, to 16 months in federal prison for his participation in the conspiracy.
Evidence introduced during the trial established that Fofana, the owner of Mandingo African Market, redeemed more than $750,000 in food stamp benefits from February 2009 to July 2011, approximately $612,000 of which was obtained utilizing fraudulent “food stamps-for-cash” exchanges. The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), which funds the food stamp program, calculated that during that same time period, Mandingo’s average food stamp redemption amount was $26,798 per month—compared to an average of $5,479 monthly redemption for other convenience stores in the area.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Fofana and others conspired to fraudulently submit bridge card numbers for cash benefits. Members of the conspiracy agreed to pay customers, including undercover law enforcement agents, roughly 50 cents for each $1 charged against their cards.
USDA-OIG Special Agent in Charge Joe N. Smith stated, “The Office of Inspector General (OIG) will continue to dedicate resources to the investigation of retailers who commit fraud in vital USDA food assistance programs. OIG’s objectives are to protect the integrity of USDA nutrition assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to stop unscrupulous retailers such as Noha Fofana from taking advantage of low-income individuals during these tough economic times. As we conduct fraud investigations throughout the state of Michigan, we appreciate the support of our federal and state law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s long-term commitment to prosecuting crimes against SNAP.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Foley stated, “”Crimes involving food stamp fraud steal funds from a system designed to feed those in need. The FBI is committed to stopping this type of illegal activity.”
“Taxpayers fund food stamps to provide food for the needy, not to create a revenue stream for store owners,” McQuade said. “We hope that other merchants will become aware of prosecutions like this one and be deterred from engaging in similar fraud schemes.”
The case was investigated by special agents from the United States Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General and special agents of the FBI.
The case was prosecuted by the Flint branch of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.