Federal prosecutors say two Westbrook men face multiple charges for conspiring to turn food stamp and other welfare benefits into cash, in a scheme based at a Portland halal market.
Agents from three federal agencies — the FBI, IRS and the Department of Agriculture, which administers food stamps — were tipped to the alleged criminal enterprise by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services last year, according to an affidavit for a warrant to raid the Ahram Halal Market on Portland’s Forest Avenue.
The warrant also included details of a federal undercover operation at the store, which is now under different ownership. Then it was owned by Ali Ratib Daham, 40, while his younger brother Abdulkareem Daham, 21, was a cashier. They are the subjects of the new indictment.
Prosecutors say they ran several schemes to defraud the government, in most cases by allowing customers to use electronic benefit cards or government checks to get cash from welfare programs that are supposed to be used to buy food.
The indictment does not peg an exact value to the amount of money the men may have stolen from the government, but it does allege they made bank deposits worth millions of dollars that included a mixture of legitimate and fraudulent transactions.
Both men face charges that carry a five-year prison sentence, while the older brother could face 20 years for charges that include money laundering and wire fraud.