Pawtucket Accountant Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy to Traffic Contraband Cigarettes and Conspiracy to Commit Food Stamp Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 19, 2014|
PROVIDENCE, RI—Bassam Kiriaki, 46, an accountant with offices located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence on Monday to participating in a conspiracy which trafficked $1.2 million in contraband cigarettes into Rhode Island from Virginia and to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the food stamp program, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
Kiriaki and six other individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2013, charged with allegedly participating in a complex conspiracy to import cigarettes from Virginia into Rhode Island that were sold in convenience stores and other locations allegedly owned or operated by members of the conspiracy and others. The conspiracy allegedly resulted in the loss of more than $1 million in Rhode Island state tax revenue.
The indictment also alleges that Kiriaki and others participated in various schemes and conspiracies to defraud other types of programs, including Social Security and the food stamp program.
At the time of his guilty plea, Bassam Kiriaki admitted to the court that he made false representations to law enforcement and created a false tax document in order to conceal the conspiracy. According to court records, on March 30, 2013, the Virginia State Police stopped an alleged co-conspirator and seized $30,000 in cash from his vehicle. After the stop and seizure, the FBI intercepted calls made by Kiriaki during which he agreed to call Virginia State Police to tell them that the money was to buy merchandise for a “new” store in Virginia, Bad Boys Tobacco Stop Inc. In other phone calls Kiriaki discussed how he would create or backdate documents, including an IRS form, to substantiate the false claim to the Virginia State Police. The tax form was then faxed to Virginia State Police.
In addition, at the time of his guilty plea, Kiriaki admitted to the court that he participated in a conspiracy and that he filed fraudulent documents with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service so that a convenience store owned by a co-conspirator could maintain participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as an approved vendor, even though the store had been previously disqualified. The documents intentionally misrepresented the true owners of the business.
Bassam, who pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6, 2014, by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith. Each charge is punishable by statutory penalties of up to five years in federal prison followed by up to three years’ supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Ferland and Ly T. Chin.
The investigation was conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office, Rhode Island State Police, FBI, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General.