Birmingham store manager pleads guilty to tax and food stamp fraud | USAO-NDAL

Birmingham, Ala. A Birmingham grocery store manager pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire and tax fraud in federal court for illegal manipulation of the Supplemental Nutrition Act program totaling more than $4.6 million, US attorney Prem F Escalona, ​​US Attorney announced. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Investigations, Acting Special Agent in Charge Salina Walker, and the Internal Revenue Service, Assistant Criminal Investigations Agent in Charge Lisa Fontanet.

Omar Motley, 42, of Birmingham, pleaded guilty to US District Judge Caron O. Motley’s guilty plea would require him to pay $847,001.00 to the IRS and $3,815,599.98 to the USDA, which administers a food stamp program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Motley’s sentencing is scheduled for November 8, 2022.

Motley was the manager of a Big B Food Mart located at 4012 24th Street North in Birmingham, Alabama, which has been authorized by the USDA to accept food stamp benefits. Motley was indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2021.

SNAP benefits are provided to eligible recipients by the USDA on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which functions like a debit card. Motley pleaded guilty to unlawfully redeeming EBT SNAP benefits for cash and ineligible items between November 2014 and March 2017. During this time, SNAP benefits redeemed at Big B Food Mart were 52 times greater than stores of similar size in the area. Motley’s manipulation of SNAP led to him withdrawing nearly $3.7 million in cash from the Big B Food Mart’s bank account.

Motley also pleaded guilty to tax fraud for failing to report to the IRS his 2015 income from SNAP benefits redemption. According to the evidence presented by the United States at the hearing, Motley significantly overstated the cost of Big B Food Mart for goods sold in this return, resulting in a significant deduction in the amount of his personal income tax liability. The total IRS tax loss is $847,001.00. The maximum penalty for tax fraud is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for electronic fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

US Attorney Escalona said: “The funds that Congress has appropriated for SNAP funds USDA efforts to help families in need, and I commend the efforts of our federal partners who have worked to ensure that these public funds are used for their intended purposes.”

“The USDA Office of Inspector General – Investigations is actively investigating allegations of fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This investigation and prosecution serves as a warning to all stores, that participate in SNAP as sellers, that fraud and trafficking (purchasing those benefits with cash) are ) will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by the USDA-OIG, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Salina Walker, acting special agent in charge of the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, said all of her federal, state, and local partners have an interest in ensuring the fraud is eradicated from Taxpayer-funded programmes.

“The purpose of SNAP is to feed and nurture our community. Motley has benefited from this program,” said Lisa Fontanet, the IRS assistant special agent for criminal investigations. “Motley turned money from the program for his ultimate benefit. Moreover, he did not pay taxes. Money that could have helped our citizens more. Motley has shown a blatant disregard for others, so today’s appeal is a victory for our community.”

The case was investigated by the US Department of Agriculture – Office of the Inspector General and the IRS-CI, which was tried by Assistant United States Attorney Catherine Crosby.

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