Owner of Atlanta’s Salwa Foods sentenced
3:42 pm, November 27th, 2012
A federal judge in Atlanta has sentenced the owner of Atlanta-based Salwa Foods to serve a year and a day in federal prison for wire fraud in connection with his submission of more than $300,000 in false claims to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. District Court Amy Totenberg also ordered Mushtaq “Mike” Mistry, 47, of Lawrenceville to pay $342,500 in restitution to the U.S. Commodity Credit Corp.
Mistry and his wife, Waheeda Bano Mistry, were charged last January in an indictment that accused them of devising a scheme to defraud the Agriculture Department’s Market Access Program. The Market Access Program uses funds from the federal Commodity Credit Corp. to assist in the development, expansion and maintenance of agricultural markets for U.S. agricultural commodities and products, according to the indictment. The program helped U.S. producers and U.S. companies by providing funds to promote U.S. products abroad. The program reimbursed as much as 50 percent of the costs of marketing U.S. products overseas.
Salwa Foods specializes in the production of halal frozen chicken and beef products. Halal refers to meat that has been butchered according to Islamic law.
According to the indictment, from 2007 to 2009 Mistry successfully submitted reimbursement claims to the Market Access Program for what he said was the purchase of commercials advertising Salwa Foods on television networks in Dubai. But, according to the indictment, the invoices that Mistry submitted were false and the Dubai television network was never paid to air Salwa commercials in the United Arab Emirates.
Mistry provided the market program with falsified documentation, including invoices and checks indicating falsely that he had made payments to the Dubai network, and federal prosecutors said the claims he submitted did not correspond to any actual payments made to air the commercials.
In September, Mistry pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud. Following his plea, federal prosecutors dismissed the charges against his wife and returned her passport, according to court records in the case.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said today that Mistry “abused a federal program designed to help companies in the United States market and sell their products internationally.
“In this time of federal belt-tightening,” Yates continued, “it is essential to detect and prevent federal program fraud in order to preserve these resources for the individuals and small businesses that truly need them.”
Donald B. Yaden, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigations division in Atlanta, said, “Mistry took advantage of the very program that was designed to assist him and his business.”