Swansea brothers sentenced in $1.6 mil food stamp fraud case

EAST ST. LOUIS — Two brothers from Swansea have been sentenced to seven years in prison and face restitution for defrauding $1.6 million from food stamps, taxes and the sale of counterfeit goods.

Qais Hussein, 43, and Majdi Odeh, 45, were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis to 85 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Both have also been ordered to each pay $12,500 in fines and $1.6 million in restitution for the loss to SNAP, the food stamp program.

The two owned and operated Garden Grill Markets in East St. Louis, where five employees have also plead guilty to stealing from the food stamp program from January 2010 to July 2012. The employees were as follows: Hossam Ahmed, 25, of St. Louis, Mo.; Alaa Jaber, 29, of Jersey City, New Jersey; Elsayed Hassan, 25, of East Saint Louis; Rami Abou Amra, 37, of Troy, and Albraa Sabrah, 27, of Hazelwood, Mo.

The defendants admitted that as part of the conspiracy, they would use Garden Grill Market Inc. and Garden Grill Market II, Inc., to unlawfully acquire SNAP benefits from customers by offering and unlawfully giving cash payments to those customers in return for the electronic transfer of SNAP benefits for well in excess of the cash amount given, normally giving the recipients cash in the amount of 50 to 60 percent of the value received by the store.

In addition, the defendants fraudulently accepted SNAP benefits for ineligible items such as tobacco, cellular phones, and purses/handbags. The defendants also admitted to buying Woman, Infant and Children (WIC) vouchers by giving cash amounts less than the face value of the voucher.