The former owner of a Portland halal market who, with his brother, traded $1.4 million in federal food benefits for cash was sentenced Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court to only three years in prison. The federal prosecutor called the case “one of the largest, if not the largest, fraud cases involving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in Maine.”
Bangor Daily News Ali Ratib Daham, 41, of Westbrook (below) , who originally owned Ahram Halal Market, 630 Forest Ave., pleaded guilty in November to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, money laundering and theft of government funds.
His brother, Abdulkareem Daham, 23, was sentenced Monday morning to two years in prison. He was convicted after a three-day jury trial in January of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to court documents.
The older brother was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution, while the younger was ordered to pay up to $955,000, according to their attorneys. The restitution order states that the men are equally responsible for payments but the younger brother’s payments are capped.
The elder brother said that he broke the law in an effort to help Portland’s Muslim immigrant community.
Breitbart Daham, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen after emigrating from Iraq, conspired with others to defraud the U.S. government of $1.4 million from 2011 to 2016, prosecutors say.
Court documents show that the shop owner gave customers cash in exchange for their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program benefits. He then redeemed the benefits so the federal government would reimburse him for the full amount, according to court documents.
FBI reports describe how Muslim customers would come into Daham’s store, buy a small amount of groceries, often less than $20 worth. Then Daham would give the customers hand-fulls of cash, after taking hundreds of dollars off their SNAP (food stamp) benefits cards.
Making matters worse, Daham then instructed several other Muslim customers how to get even more government benefits by pretending not to know English and telling the government that they wanted to go to school. That way, his customers could get benefits without working.
Daham also instructed his customers how to file false tax returns, despite not working, in order to collect the government’s “earned income tax credit”. The “earned income tax credit” is a program that gives money to poor working people, to subsidize their incomes.
Despite raking in a fortune in fraudulent tax dollars, the store owner, Ali Ratib Daham, himself also filed false tax returns, under reporting his income and collecting large tax refunds every year.