(Cleveland)-A Westlake man with a history of food stamp fraud was indicted on charges that he continued to illegally accept food stamps at seven Cleveland-area gas stations, laundered the profits, illegally had firearms, operated an unregulated slaughterhouse and polluted a stream by dumping animal blood and other fluids into it.
Amin M. Salem, 59, and Mohamed Salem, 32, were both indicted on one count each of conspiracy to launder money and one count of engaging in real estate transactions using laundered funds.
Amin Salem is additionally charged with one count of making unpermitted discharges into a waterway, one count of distribution of adulterated, misbranded or uninspected meat and one count of being a felon in possession of firearms. That charge stems from Amin Salem having an AR-15 rifle and a Savage 12-gauge shotgun, despite previous convictions for conspiracy to defraud the United States, food stamp fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering.
Mohamed Salem, also of Westlake and Amin’s son, is also charged with trafficking in counterfeit goods for his sale of counterfeit clothing and apparel.
Zahran al-Qadan, 55, of Cleveland, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Prosecutors are seeking to forfeit properties at 43588 Stang Road and 7250 West Ridge Road in Elyria owned by the Salems.
According to the six-count indictment:
Amin Salem secretly owned several area gas stations: Henry’s Marathon at 3106 Fulton Road; Gas Way at 10606 Bellaire Road; Turney Sunoco at 6009 Turney Road in Garfield Heights; Harvard Gas USA at 7020 Harvard Ave.; Bellaire Gas USA at 3934 West 117th Street; Rapid Stop at 1712 East 55th Street and Memphis Shell at 7210 Memphis Ave.
Mohamed Salem managed the gas station’s finances of behalf of his father. The gas stations had terminals to accept and process Electronic Benefits Transaction (EBT) cards as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
The gas stations and the EBT terminals inside were in the names of Mohamed Salem or another person, since Amin Salem was prohibited from owning stores that processed EBT transactions because of previous convictions for food stamp fraud and related crimes.
The gas station terminals were used by the Salems to process more than $2.7 million in fraudulent SNAP transactions between 2010 and 2016.
Amin Salem slaughtered lambs and goats at his property on Stang Road in 2015 and 2016. He sold the meat, which was not inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also caused, without a permit, the discharge of blood and other bodily fluids from the slaughtered animals into Engle Ditch, which flows into the Black River and eventually Lake Erie.
Mohamed Salem sold meat illegally slaughtered at Amin Salem’s farm. The Salems allowed customers to pay for the illegally slaughtered meat using SNAP cards, in contravention of SNAP’s rules and regulations.
Money from the meat sales and SNAP transactions were deposited into gas station accounts and ultimately sent to accounts controlled and used by the Salems.
The Salems and al-Qadan owned the Rapid Stop gas station at 1712 East 55th Street in Cleveland. Al-Qadan also owned and operated Yahala Bakery, a grocery store and bakery in North Olmsted.
Al-Qadan used checks from Yahala Bakery to purchase illegally slaughtered meat, and caused the checks to be processed through gas station bank accounts so it appeared those transactions were for the purchase of gasoline. Al-Qadan also paid for the meat using the EBT cards of customers who allowed him to have possession of their cards and accounts.
The Salems used the funds from these fraudulent transactions to pay for lots at 26800-26900 Brookpark Road Extension in North Olmsted.
“Amin Salem is accused of engaging in a diverse array of crimes, from food stamp fraud to illegally slaughtering lambs and goats to illegally having an assault rifle and shotgun, just to name a few,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “He will now be held accountable for years of disregarding our nation’s laws and flouting the rules to enrich himself.”
“This father and son duo engaged in various illegalities to include stealing from every taxpaying citizen by engaging in food stamp fraud, a program designed to help those in need,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Hughes. “Salem put others at risk by selling unsanitary, unregulated food. The FBI will continue to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners to ensure fraudsters like these are held accountable.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes where individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money," stated Ryan Korner, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI Cincinnati Field Office.
“The defendant is alleged to have illegally discharged waste from an animal slaughtering operation into a local stream,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “This case demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners will pursue those who violate laws designed to protect the health of our communities and the environment.”
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant's prior criminal record, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
This case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations, USDA-OIG, USDA-FSIS, EPA-CID, Ohio Investigative Unit, Ohio Department of Taxation, Ohio Department of Agriculture, BCI, Ohio EPA, Lorain County Sheriff's Office, Guernsey County Sheriff's Department, Cleveland Division of Police, Westlake Police Department and Strongsville Police Department.
It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Duncan Brown and Brad Beeson.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The burden of proof is always on the government to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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