The owner of a former meat shop in Flint, Mich., was found guilty of conspiring to commit wire fraud and will spend more than three years in prison.

Sohyl Halloun, former owner of Shorthorn Meats in Flint, Michigan, was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $4,400,000 in restitution for conspiring to commit wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Salvador Gonzalez, Acting Special Agent in Charge of USDA-Office of Inspector General and Special Agent in Charge Sara Kull, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker sentenced Halloun to 42 months in federal prison. Halloun was also ordered to pay $4,424,692 in restitution to the USDA-Food and Nutrition Service.

According to court records, Halloun and other co-conspirators agreed to and provided Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) users approximately 50 cents on the dollar in exchange for their food stamp benefits. Halloun or his employees either directly provided money to food stamp recipients in exchange for their benefits, or engaged in another scheme that involved other co-conspirators and a local car wash. The total loss resulting from the conspiracy was $4,424,692. The investigation also revealed other troubling aspects of the business. Agents discovered large amounts of expired food at the business when executing a search warrant at Shorthorn Meats. One of Halloun’s co-defendants admitted in a court filing that Halloun directed him to pour bleach water on a rotting chicken so that it could be sold. Halloun fled to Israel during the investigation and required extradition to force his return.

“SNAP uses federal tax dollars to help low-income individuals put food on their tables,” said US Attorney Ison.  “This defendant’s actions not only stole from taxpayers but also diverted necessary assistance from those who truly need and benefit from this food assistance program.  We hope this sentence will deter other store owners from engaging in this illegal conduct.”

“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals engaged in the practice of defrauding taxpayer funded WIC and SNAP programs,” said Salvador Gonzalez, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, USDA-Office of Inspector General. “It should also serve as a warning to all stores, that participate in the WIC and SNAP programs as vendors, that fraud and trafficking (purchasing those benefits for cash) will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by the USDA-OIG, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and all its federal, state, and local partners that have a stake in ensuring that fraud is eliminated from taxpayer funded programs.”

The case was investigated by special agents from the United States Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, with the assistance of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan Department of Human Services.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Rawsthorne.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice