St. Pete store clerk guilty of food stamp fraud
A St. Petersburg convenience store clerk has been convicted of participating in a food stamp fraud scheme that cost the federal government an estimated $350,000. Isam Nasser, 30, of St. Petersburg, was found guilty by a jury Wednesday of conspiracy to defraud the government and commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and five counts of food stamp fraud, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill, of the Middle District of Florida. According to evidence at the trial, Nasser was a clerk at the Hungry Baba, a convenience store owned and operated by Mehdi Babul. During the conspiracy, Hungry Baba participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which is run by the federal Department of Agriculture. From November 2008 through April 2010, Babul, Nasser and others conspired to cheat SNAP by purchasing benefits from customers for cash, minus a fee of about 50 percent of the amount charged to the recipient’s account, the release said.The transactions are illegal and known as “discounting” or “cash-back.” According to testimony at the trial, the estimated loss to the USDA was more than $350,000. Nasser faces up to five years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge, up to 20 years on the wire fraud charge, and one year on each of the food stamp fraud charges, the release said. Nasser will be sentenced July 10. Babul pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and to commit wire fraud on March 1. He will be sentenced May 20. Several agencies investigated the case: Secret Service, Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the St. Petersburg Police Department.