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Former St. Pete grocery owner charged with conspiracy involving food benefits

June 11, 2020 - Ghasan Awad, the former owner of a St. Petersburg grocery store, is one of three men charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Awad, who lives in Safety Harbor, along with Ahmad Al Saleh and Bassam Al Saleh, who both live in Tampa, also are charged with making false statements to the USDA regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. An indictment said that Awad was the former owner of Express Meat Market, a grocery store in St. Petersburg that accepted SNAP benefits. According to the indictment, after Awad was disqualified from SNAP, he conspired with the other defendants to fraudulently transfer ownership of the store to Ahmad Al Saleh. The indictment also said Awad unlawfully paid cash to store customers in exchange for their SNAP benefits.

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