Modified: October 6, 2014 1:14pm
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announces that 47 year-old Saleh Sailani pleaded guilty as charged to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Misuse of Food Stamps, Attempted Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree and Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fifth Degree before Erie County Court Judge Kenneth F. Case. These are the highest charges for which the defendant could have been convicted had he gone to trial. Sailani did not receive a so-called “plea bargain” and was instead prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Sailani is the co-owner and proprietor of the Cazenovia Mini Market, located at 2330 Seneca Street in the city of Buffalo. A multi-agency investigation conducted by The New York State Police, the Buffalo Police Department, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, exposed food stamp benefit fraud and theft occurring in two different manners.
The first method of fraud was for Sailani to swipe a welfare recipient’s benefit card in a so-called “two-for-one” cash exchange. For example, a benefit card would be swiped for $40, representing to the government that $40 of goods had been purchased by the welfare recipient. In fact, no goods were sold. Instead, Sailani would give the welfare recipient $20 in cash and accept a $40 payment from the government. This fraudulent activity resulted in an estimated $216,000 of theft over a sixteen month period. In other words, Saliani stole approximately $216,000 from taxpayer money intended for the benefit of poor people.
The second method of fraud consisted of Sailani using a welfare recipient’s benefit card to make wholesale and retail purchases. For example, Sailani would pay a welfare recipient for the use of a public benefit card and use the card to purchase perishables and other consumer goods at other legitimate businesses, such as Tops, Walmart, and Aldi’s. Sailani then would re-stock the shelves of his own store with these items, and sell them in his own store, often at inflated prices.
When arrested, Sailani was caught attempting to purchase four stolen 60” flat screen televisions and was found to be in possession of un-taxed cigarettes for sale in his store. Also seized was nearly $30,000 in cash and evidence of several wire transfers of money to individuals in the Republic of Yemen.
Sailani faces a maximum of seven years in state prison when he is sentenced on January 7, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. by Judge Case.
The case was successfully prosecuted by Felony Trial Bureau Chiefs Kristin St. Mary and Michael Felicetta. DA Sedita also noted the efforts of Buffalo Police Officer Tony LeBrun in spearheading the investigation, and added: “Unlike the heroic outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, this larcenous leech corrupted the poor to steal from the taxpayer.”