Birmingham store manager pleads guilty to food stamp and tax fraud


Date: July 7, 2022


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, announced 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.

Omar Motley, 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 purpose of the SNAP program is to feed and nourish our community. Motley took advantage of that program," said IRS-Criminal Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lisa Fontanette. "Motley diverted funds from the program to ultimately benefit himself. On top of that, he did not pay taxes; money which could have further helped our citizens. Motley showed a blatant disregard for others, so today's plea is a victory for our community."

"The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General - Investigations, actively investigates allegations of fraud in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). This investigation and prosecution serve as a warning to all stores, that participate in the SNAP program as vendors, that fraud and trafficking (purchasing those benefits for cash) will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted by the USDA-OIG, the U. S. Attorney's Office, and all of its federal, state, and local partners that have a stake in ensuring that fraud is eliminated from taxpayer-funded programs," said Salina Walker, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge for USDA's Office of Inspector General.

IRS-CI and the USDA-OIG and investigated the case, which Assistant United States Attorney Catherine Crosby prosecuted.