Couple sentenced to prison for food stamp fraud case

KWKT
POSTED: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 12:06pm
UPDATED: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 9:18pm

A Waco man and woman were sentenced Wednesday for pleading guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for their reported roles in fraudulent food stamp usage conducted in their convenience store.

Jamal Akhter and his wife, Magdalena, were both indicted on March 12 after an investigation led to their arrests. The couple pleaded guilty to seperate charges in June.

Jamal has been ordered to 21 months in prison for his guilty plea to wire fraud, while Magdalena pleaded guilty to making a false or ficticious claim. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

According to McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, investigators with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission conducted a sting operation at M&J Food Mart, located at 1501 North 15th Street, leading to the discovery of fraudulent food stamp usage.

Reyna says this is the second big case he's worked on since a similar sting was conducted at Swift P store in 2011 which also resulted in federal prosecution of the store merchant. About 100 food stamp account holders were also arrested in the sting. The investigators approached Reyna before the sting to create a partnership in order to prosecute fraudulent food stamp users.

Within the partnership, the DA's office is awarded $280 for each case prosecuted. That money is a part of "an agreement executed in 1982 whereby the state of Texas would pay the local jurisdiction that was prosecuting these cases a set amount of money to offset the amount of money for resources used." That money goes to the ADAPT (Alchohol Drug Abuse Prevention) Fund to use for services. Since Reyna has taken office, the fund has quadrupled in size, going from $11,000 to $45,000.

In the M&J Food Mart case, Reyna says the DA's office has already issued at least two indictments. Investigators "have projected anywhere from 30-40 cases with restitution amounts from $80,000 to $82,000," says Reyna.

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