Court revokes probation, sends store owner to prison for food stamp fraud

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former convenience store owner who admitted to swindling more than $1 million from the state’s food stamp program will now go to prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a federal judge revoked 46-year-old Sami Almuhtaseb’s probation late last month and instead sentenced him to 31 months in prison, after investigators determined he had misled the court.

Almuhtaseb, the former owner of Oasis Market in Providence, pleaded guilty last year to masterminding a scheme to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to federal prosecutors, investigators determined that nearly half of the $2,755,125 in SNAP benefits that Oasis Market redeemed between November 2009 and December 2015 were fraudulent. Prosecutors said the scheme netted Almuhtaseb at least $1.1 million dollars. Out of that money, prosecutors said he spent nearly $200,000 at casinos and another $35,000 on shopping, entertainment and credit card bills. He also used $160,000 to pay mortgages.

A federal judge originally sentenced Almuhtaseb to five years probation with 730 days of intermittent confinement so he could continue to run his business. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said investigators later determined that Almuhtaseb was no longer owner of the Oasis Market, and failed to tell the court before he was first sentenced.