Des Moines MidCity Halal Food Market owner convicted of fraud


A Des Moines grocer who was the target of a criminal investigation for allegedly defrauding federal food aid programs will be sentenced to federal prison next month, according to documents filed in federal court.

Osman Jama, who ran MidCity Halal Food Market, pleaded guilty in writing to a charge of conspiracy to commit electronic fraud.

Court documents show Jama, 40, of Windsor Heights, admitted to stealing at least $ 550,000 from Women, Infant and Children’s food aid program for low-income mothers and their children as well as “a certain additional amount” of the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps

Jama also admitted to using EBT cards he bought from SNAP beneficiaries to buy food at Sam’s Club so that he could resell it in his store.

He has agreed to reimburse approximately $ 560,000 to state agencies that administer the programs in Iowa and to waive his claims on some of the money and real estate confiscated from him under federal laws. on the confiscation of assets.

This includes $ 110,000 from four bank accounts, about $ 225,000 in cash and two of the three Des Moines-area homes federal agents said they bought with the fraud money.

After:The Senate passes a bill adding requirements for food stamps; critics say it will mean fewer Iowans will receive benefits

The allegations

The FBI investigation came to light in 2019 when the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa filed a lawsuit to seize Jamaica’s real estate and bank accounts. Civil property forfeiture laws allow the government to take control of property used in crime or paid for with the proceeds of crime.

At the time, they said he received about $ 1.9 million more from the programs than the US Department of Agriculture would expect to pay at other stores similar to the 1,800 square foot grocery store located at 2720 Douglas Ave. in Des Moines.

This meant that his store was among the top recipients of the state’s WIC program money.

For the month of January 2019, the store was ranked seventh overall. The six largest stores averaged over 144,000 square feet, according to court documents.

After:Feds: Des Moines grocer defrauded hundreds of thousands of dollars in food aid programs

FBI and US Department of Agriculture investigators used confidential informants to catch Jama scanning items like infant formula at the checkout instead of ineligible items that WIC and SNAP recipients were actually buying, they said. stated in court documents.

He also offered to pay confidential informants cash if they loaned him their benefit cards so he could use them elsewhere to restock his store, according to the document.

Following federal foreclosures, Jama closed the store.

His sentencing is scheduled for July 2. He could be sentenced to serve up to 20 years in federal prison.

Jama’s attorney Alfredo Parrish declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Daniel Lathrop is a writer on the Registry investigative team. Contact him at (319) 244-8873 or dlathrop@dmreg.com. Follow him on @lathropd on Twitter and facebook.com/lathropode.

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