From The Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The manager of a Birmingham grocery store pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court to wire and tax fraud for his unlawful manipulation of the Supplemental Nutrition Act Program totaling more than $4.6 million.
OMAR MOTLEY, 42, of Birmingham, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre to one count of tax fraud and one count of wire fraud. Motley’s guilty plea will require him to repay restitution of $847,001.00 to the IRS and $3,815,599.98 to the USDA, which administers the food stamp program under the name Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Motley is scheduled for sentencing on November 8, 2022.
Motley was the manager of the Big B Food Mart located at 4012 24th Street North in Birmingham, Alabama, which was authorized by USDA to accept food stamp benefits. A federal grand jury indicted Motley in March 2021.
SNAP benefits are provided to qualified recipients by the USDA on an electronic benefit transfer card (EBT), which functions like a debit card. Motley pleaded guilty to unlawfully redeeming EBT SNAP benefits for cash and ineligible items between November 2014 through March 2017.
During this time, SNAP benefits redeemed at Big B Food Mart were 52 times greater than similarly sized stores in the area. Motley’s manipulation of the SNAP program led to him withdrawing approximately $3.7 million of cash from the Big B Food Mart’s bank account.
Motley also pleaded guilty to tax fraud for under-reporting to the IRS his 2015 income received from redeeming SNAP benefits. According to evidence proffered by the United States at the hearing, Motley substantially overstated the amount of Big B Food Mart’s cost of goods sold on this return, resulting in a large deduction in the amount of his personal income tax liability.
The tax loss to the IRS totals $847,001.00. The maximum penalty for the tax fraud is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“The money allocated by Congress for the SNAP program funds critical USDA efforts to help families in need,” said U.S. Attorney Escalona, “I commend the efforts of our federal partners who worked to ensure that these public funds are used for their intended purposes.”
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney Prim F. Escalona, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, Investigations, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Salina Walker, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lisa Fontanette.