Named “Operation T-Bone,” the sting was carried out simultaneously across Jefferson County Wednesday.
According to a report by Carol Robinson at AL.com, those arrested were buying EBT, or food stamp, cards at 50 cents on the dollar (in other words, if a card was loaded with $100, the perpetrator would buy it for $50 cash), then use that card to buy food in bulk to be sold at convenience stores in neighborhoods without grocery stores. Jefferson County DA Brandon Falls alleges that at least some of the resulting profits were wired to Yemen.
“This is huge for us,” said Falls.
The District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Gardendale Police Department, the USDA, the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Secret Service all worked together on the investigation leading up to today’s arrests. Birmingham police, the U.S. Marshals, the Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Walmart Global Operations, Hoover police, Pelham police and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency assisted with the raids.
The investigation was initially started three months ago when a shoplifter was caught stealing steaks from the Gardendale Walmart. When investigators reported the scheme to Walmart, they learned that the corporation was already looking into EBT fraud at two convenience store locations where the apprehended shoplifter was selling the goods.
More than 900,000 Alabamians receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administered through EBT cards. The cards are only permitted to be used to buy food, non-alcoholic drinks, and some non-food basic needs.
According to Deputy DA Cynthia Raulston, the practice of selling EBT cards for cash is rampant in many lower-income communities. “If you just wander into the community and say something about a beneficiary card, someone will sell you one,” Raulston said. “It’s everywhere.”
Arrested in Wednesdays raids were: Jowher Almnasoob, Abdulrahman Alqublani, Ismail Hassan Elnaham, Saleh Yahya Rowaid, Ramzi Jowher Ali Almansoob, Mujahed Jowher Ali Almansoob, Bashir Abosaleh Mohamed, Fouad Zamzami, Muneer Zindani, Sufyan Saleh, Mansoor Almansoob, Audrey Morris, Jerry Brown, Keith Lee Lucas, Travis Wayne Holmes, Murad Nooruddin and Mable Olympia Kirksey.
The 11 raided convenience stores are now subject to condemnation and forfeiture.
The following stores were raided: Graymont Grocery on Graymont Avenue; R&S Supermarket, 326 6th Ave. South; Nana’s Supermarket, 400 1st Street South; 3rd Avenue Package, 1501 3rd Ave. West; Bessemer Market, 2931 Dartmouth Avenue; 40th Street Grocery, 1200 40th Street; Christy’s Texaco, 201 6th Ave. S.W.; Uptown Grocery, 1531 12th Court North; Triple M Food Mart, 1546 FL Shuttlesworth Drive; R&F Inc. Convenience Store, 5612 1st Ave. South; and Munchies-Avondale, 4100 5th Ave. South.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015