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Feds say Calhoun grocery owner took $1.7M not allowed under food stamps

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 3:46 pm

The grocery may be small, but the “refund” the feds want sure isn't.

In an indictment issued last week but only unsealed this week, investigators say the owner of the Calhoun Market, 3504 S. Calhoun St., allowed customers to use food stamps to buy more than $1.7 million in goods they weren't eligible to purchase with the federal benefit. The indictment also alleges that Ayad Al-Shaibani returned cash to customers using electronic debit cards loaded with food-stamp funds. Federal law limits the use of food stamps to certain food items, and it prohibits the benefits from being exchanged for cash.

Al-Shaibani, 41, is indicted on 10 counts. Five indictments recount individual transactions, in which Al-Shaibani allegedly allowed customers with federal debit cards to buy items such as candy, soft drinks or clothing that aren't allowed under the program regulations. These indictments based on individual transactions also noted how much money Al-Shaibani returned in cash in each transaction.

The other five indictments total up, year by year, how much federal money he allegedly accepted improperly from April 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2012. The government alleges that he accepted card payments of $1,714,207.10 that he should not have.

The government wants that money back. The indictment also says that in the event Al-Shaibani doesn't have enough money to fully repay those funds, the government plans to seek other assets of his to cover the amount.

These charges were filed as the result of an investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.