Thursday, June 10, 2010

Indy Food Stamp Fraud Case May Have Terrorist Links

There has been a lot of local media coverage of a raid on several gas station/convenience stores in the Indianapolis area this week by federal and local authorities arising out of an alleged food stamp fraud investigation. According to investigators, people who receive food stamps were able to use them at these stores to purchase cell phones, cigarettes, knock-off clothing and other non-food related items that cannot be purchased with food stamps, a criminal enterprise that may have been defrauding federal taxpayers out of as much as $10,000 a month. The store clerks would allegedly also ring up groceries that had never been purchased, pull the money from the cash register and split the money with the food stamp recipient. This fraud has been going on for years according to investigators. The investigation itself began two years ago. Most local media coverage missed the possible link of this criminal activity to Muslim terrorists. Fox59 New's Russ McQuaid did, however, pick up on it:

Four of five suspects were arrested. Two of the men are from Mexico, at least one is from Pakistan and another is thought to be on the run in Yemen.

“The countries of origin of these individuals raise some red flags, especially if you think of the organized crime connection with Mexico and if you think about, unfortunately, the terrorism connection then we’re thinking about Pakistan and Yemen here are raising the biggest red flags here on the Middle East,” said international affairs assistant professor Doug Woodwell of the University of Indianapolis.

Woodwell says federal agents will likely track wire transfers and cell phone records in trying to determine if any of the money from the scheme left the United States.

“We have thousands of informal banking networks in this country which are actually not regulated or known that allow for the transferring of money to the middle east, sort of under the radar.”
In McQuaid's original report, he had a comment from Marion County's chief narcotics prosecutor, Larry Brodeur, indicating that investigators were exploring a terrorist connection as part of the investigation. Money from the corrupt enterprise reportedly was being wired outside the country. Brodeur's comments have been subsequently excised from the online video and online story Fox59 News is carrying on its website. Notice too that McQuaid carefully avoided using the word "Muslim" in describing possible terrorist activity in his report despite the obvious. According to the AP, the following five people of foreign nationalities were arrested, while the fifth ring leader of the group may have fled back to Yemen:

Mohammad S. Khan, 43, corrupt business influence, theft and fraud.

Ricardo Rivera, 26, possession and dealing in marijuana and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

Khalid Saleem, 47, corrupt business influence, theft and fraud.

Micaela Sierra, 51, corrupt business influence, theft and fraud. Public records show that she was the president of Abarrotes La Michoacana Corp.

Saleh Yafai, 31, theft and fraud. Public records show Yafai was the incorporator of Low Price Dollar and Food.

The five are scheduled for initial hearings today. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is checking the defendants' immigration status, police said.

Not arrested and thought by police to have possibly left for Yemen is Ali Mohammad, 36, listed in public records as the incorporator of Best Price Dollar and Food.
The Tista (formerly Phillips 66) gas station/convenience store included in the raids at the corner of Alabama and Michigan is just a couple of blocks down the street from my home. I rarely stop in there, but I had not noticed this type of activity taking place there. The clerks were always of Middle Eastern origin and spoke with a strong accent. I noticed it was already reopened for business yesterday.


Blog Admin said...

For what it's worth, I've been hearing WIBC in their news reports refer to terrorist connections.

Interesting how this organized crime was originally thought to be from Chicago, and now it seems to be international.

artfuggins said...

I believe you have the wrong station....the downtown gas station was the Tista station at Alabama and Michigan ..not the Phillips 66 station.

Gary R. Welsh said...

There is only one gas station on that corner.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The name may have changed, but it used to be a Phillips 66 station. The sign looks like it's missing some letters now.

Downtown Indy said...

The station is architecturally in the old P-66 style. It is now 'Tista.' Perhaps that stands for 'Taliban information station.'

The Google map shows 'M-Z' on a large white ball atop the corner sign standard with some smaller text under it that I cannot make out.

Blog Admin said...

Gary, that's what I remember. About 6 months to a year ago, it changed it's name. I think it might have even been closed for some time.

Blog Admin said...

Here's a list of the businesses raided.

# Tista Oil at 430 N. Alabama St.
# Low Price Dollar and Food at 3402 E. 10th St.
# United Wireless at 3822 N. Mitthoeffer Road
# Best Price Dollar and Food at 2302 E. 34th St.
# Marathon Station at 3806 N. Emerson Ave.
# Marathon Station at 5060 E. 38th St.
# La Michoacana Store at 2507 W. Washington St.
# Clark Station at 3845 N. Keystone Ave.
# Two CPA offices

I've used the Tista and the Marathon on 38th and on Emerson before. I guess I won't be going to those places any more.

Indy4U2C said...

IndyStudent: They DO HAVE Chicago connections, and came from Chicago...

Indy4U2C said...

...and the Marathon 38/Emerson opened by the Chicago connection as a Citgo, which is wholly owned by the Government of Venezuela, which advocates overthrow of the USA.

Blog Admin said...

The news reports I hear on WIBC/WXNT have basically replaced all references to "Chicago organized crime" with "connects to terrorist organizations." I just assumed that they replaced it.

I guess even I can be wrong now and again.