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Old News: Largest Food Stamp Fraud Bust In History, $20M, Muslim Store Owners Arrested in Florida

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Fri, 17 Aug 2018 12:44:34 Z)

Did the Justice Department "just" make the largest food stamp fraud bust in history, valued at twenty million dollars? And were several muslim store owners arrested for this crime? The part about it being "news" and "just happening" in August 2018 is false. In fact the story dates from October 2017 but it was recently reposted as "news" by a Macedonian-run website looking to exploit gullible Americans into giving them advertising clicks by feeding them old news stolen from a newspaper website archive.

The story appeared in an article published by a site name Cukam.com on August 14, 2018 titled "Florida: Largest food stamp fraud bust in history, $20M, Muslim store owners arrested - cukam.com" (archived here) which opened:

South Florida reached another fraud milestone for what the Justice Department called "the largest combined financial fraud loss for a food stamp trafficking takedown in history." That dubious new record, federal prosecutors claim, is $20 million and resulted in a dozen charged with doing the government dirty via food stamp fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The 12 charged over four cases are Hasan Saleh, 59, Mohammed Alobaisi, 37, Reynold Francois, 38, Ihab Hassouna, 44, Mohammad Alteen, 33, Maria Jerdana, 36, Joe Ann Baker, 56, Yousef "Joe" Homedan Zahran, 60, Omar Hajje, 43, Jalal Hajyousef, 42, Andy Javier Herrera, 24, and father Javier Herrera, 49.

Screenshot of https://www.cukam.com/2018/08/14/florida-largest-food-stamp-fraud-bust-in-history-20m-muslim-store-owners-arrested/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail, leading them to think it only just happened:

Florida: Largest food stamp fraud bust in history, $20M, Muslim store owners arrested - cukam.com

South Florida reached another fraud milestone for what the Justice Department called "the largest combined financial fraud loss for a

In fact, the exact same article appeared on October 1, 2017 in the Miami Herald (but with a less emotionally charged headline):

12 charged with running $20 million food stamp fraud scheme | Miami Herald

South Florida reached another fraud milestone for what the Justice Department called "the largest combined financial fraud loss for a food stamp trafficking takedown in history." That dubious new record, federal prosecutors claim, is $20 million and resulted in a dozen charged with doing the government dirty via food stamp fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

That article also doesn't mention the religion of the suspects. It does list their names and while most of them sound Arabic there are several in there that are definitely Hispanic in origin too. In fact, the biggest of the fraudsters, Andy and Javier Herrera, seem to fall in this category:

But federal prosecutors give the money title, $10 million, to the Herreras, who also allegedly ran their game longer than everyone else -- April 2012 through last month. Andy owned Santa Ana Market II, 1832 NW 17th Ave. in Miami. Father Javier worked there and Santa Ana Market, 3000 NW 12th Ave. Javier has convictions for third-degree grand theft and lottery violations on his rap sheet.

The website cukam.com is registerd in Macedonia according to WHOIS records:

DOMAIN INFORMATION
Domain:cukam.com
Registrar:One.com A/S
Registration Date:2018-08-14
Expiration Date:2019-08-14
Updated Date:2018-08-14
Status:ok
Name Servers:ns01.one.com
ns02.one.com
REGISTRANT CONTACT
Name:REDACTED FOR PRIVACY
Organization:REDACTED FOR PRIVACY
Street:REDACTED FOR PRIVACY
City:REDACTED FOR PRIVACY
Postal Code:REDACTED FOR PRIVACY
Country:MK

The old news was shared as new in at least two pro-Trump Facebook groups so far with no indication it is old news that was copied from a newspaper article.

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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