EAST ST. LOUIS - Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that four people have been indicted relative to their role in an expansive case of benefits fraud.
Qais Hussein, 43, and Majdi Odeh, 45, both of Swansea, were charged on Oct. 22 with conspiracy to unlawfully acquire Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamp benefits), aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns, and trafficking in counterfeit goods in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury sitting in East Saint Louis.
The indictment also charges Hossam Ahmed, 24, of St. Louis, and Elsayed Hassan, 24, of Belleville, in the offense of conspiracy to unlawfully acquire SNAP benefits.
For the SNAP benefit conspiracy charge, all four men face up to five years in federal prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. For the two tax fraud counts, Hussein and Odeh face up to three years in federal prison, up to a $100,000 fine, and one year of supervised release as to each of the two counts. For the trafficking in counterfeit goods charge, Hussein and Odeh face up to 10 years in federal prison, up to a $2,000,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Each man also faces $100 special assessment for each count.
The indictment alleges that Hussein and Odeh owned and operated Garden Grill Market, Inc. and Garden Grill Market, II, Inc. in East St. Louis. The indictment further alleges that along with Elsayed Hassan and Hossam Ahmed they conspired to illegally pay cash at about 50 cents on the dollar for SNAP benefit funds. This conspiracy allowed Hussein and Odeh to fraudulently receive over $1.6 million in electronic transfers to their bank accounts.
The indictment also alleges that they filed false tax returns based upon the unreported fraudulent SNAP payments. Finally, the grand jury charged that both Hussein and Odeh in operating Garden Grill Market, II, Inc. illegally trafficked in counterfeit items from Casio, Major League Baseball, the Motion Picture Association, Prada, Coach, Fendi, Gucci and Juicy Couture.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General – Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the United States Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ranley R. Killian and Liam E. Coonan.