The brothers who operated the Garden Grill Market and Garden Grill Market II stores in East St. Louis on Monday plead guilty to a four-count indictment charging that they illegally exchanged Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for cash, conspired to file false income tax returns and dealt in counterfeit goods from 2010 to 2012.
According to a statement from Southern Illinois U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton’s office, brothers Qais Hussein, 44, and Majdi Odeh, 45, of Swansea, ran a scheme out of the two stores that entailed buying SNAP cards (formerly known as food stamps) from recipients at less than face value with cash and pocketing the remainder. They also allowed SNAP recipients to purchase items the program prohibits, like tobacco, cell phones and purses. The scheme caused a loss of about $1.6 million to the SNAP program.
The brothers also admitted to conspiring to file false income tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service and to dealing in counterfeit goods like watches, hats and DVDs.
Five of the brothers’ employees also plead guilty to charges resulting from the investigation.
Hussein and Odeh each face up to a total of 15 years in prison and up to $2 million in restitution, fines and probation.