The third of four Dayton men who were charged for allegedly stealing $3.8 million from the federal food stamp program pleaded guilty last week.
Al-Idu Al-Gaheem, 62, a local imam who owned two Dayton View businesses, pleaded guilty in federal court on Aug. 9 to felony charges of conspiracy and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
As part of the plea agreement, dozens of other charges contained in the 46-count indictment will be dismissed against Al-Gaheem, but he faces as many as 50 months in prison, and he and any of his co-defendants who are convicted will be ordered to repay the money they stole.
Al-Gaheem, Abdul Yamini Sr., 71, and Abdul Qadir, 63, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges that arose from a 19-month undercover police investigation into activities at Al-Gaheem’s businesses. Al-Gaheem owned Five Pillars Market, 1263 W. Riverview Ave., and Riverview Cell & Cup of Dreams, 512 N. Broadway St. Yamini and Qadir were employed by Al-Gaheem. A fourth employee, Omar Yahya, has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces.
Using undercover agents and informants, authorities caught the defendants illegally buying and selling counterfeit merchandise and food stamp benefits, police said. On 1,000 occasions between January 2009 and May 2011, the defendants illegally exchanged and redeemed food stamp benefits for cash and other ineligible items, such as knock-off merchandise, handguns, tobacco products and alcohol, according to a federal indictment.
The defendants paid owners of electronic food stamp cards about 50 cents for every dollar worth of benefits they provided. As a result of the scheme, the federal government deposited about $3.8 million into bank accounts belonging to defendants as reimbursement for food stamp transactions, the indictment said.
In addition to illegally obtaining and redeeming food benefits, the defendants also withdrew more than $1.2 million from their various bank accounts in ways that violated reporting requirements for currency transactions.
Following the undercover law enforcement operation, authorities seized the bank accounts of the defendants, but they only recovered less than $67,000, according to court documents. Authorities have not commented on where they believe the money went and how it was spent.
Dwight Keller, assistant U.S. district attorney for Southern District of Ohio, said he did not want to comment on Al-Gaheem’s case until the charges against Yahya are resolved. But he previously said this case of food stamp theft was one of the largest ever in the region.
In addition to conspiracy charges, Yahya faces also a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Yahya, who was convicted of robbery in 1983, sold illegal handguns to undercover police informants while they investigated food stamp trafficking at Five Pillars, authorities said.