This past week was another bad week for citizens in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. News came out that 14 stores were involved in an elaborate scheme to defraud the government out of millions of dollars. Those stores were immediately shut down, but the pieces aren't that difficult to put together.

According to witnesses, FBI agents armed in SWAT-style combat gear raided the 14 stores whose owners were involved in an elaborate scheme that stole over $16 million from American taxpayers. The scheme involved the popular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps.

Working with investigators, the FBI determined that the 14 stores in question filed an average of $1.2 million worth of food stamp receipts over the past year. Other local stores were filing only around $38,000 worth. That huge discrepancy caught the eye of investigators.

"Honest store owners work hard to earn a profit by actually selling food, and food producers and distributors also benefit. People who play by the rules deserve to know that criminals who defraud them will be held accountable," said Rod Rosenstein, an attorney who worked with the FBI on the case.

The 14 store owners in on the deal used an elaborate system of purchasing, debiting, and phone ordering food items from each others' stores in order to defraud the food stamp system. In some cases the prices of the food items were increased dramatically or the money obtained was split with the customers.

The names of the store owners also appear to show a trend of Middle Eastern-descent. Walayat Khan, Barbara Ann Duke, Shaheen Tasewar Hussain, Kelym Novas Perez, Jose Remedio Gonzalez Reyes, Mulazam Hussain, Mahmood Hussain Shah, Muhammad Rafiq, Mohammad Shafiq, Alia Shaheen, Mohammad Irfan, Muhammad Sarmad, Rizwan Pervez and Kassem Mohammad Hafeed all received hundreds of thousands of dollars for "food sales that never occurred."

We'll leave it up to you to draw the conclusions.

h/t: CBS Baltimore

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