Store owner pleads guilty to massive food stamp fraud

Store owner pleads guilty to massive food stamp fraud »Play Video
Mahmoud Tajgerdu appears in court Friday, May 30, 2014. He pleaded guilty to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money in just a couple of years.

A Beaverton store owner has pleaded guilty in a massive food stamp fraud case.

Mahmoud Tajgerdu admitted to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money in just a couple of years. He admitted his store put fake charges on Oregon Trail Food Stamp cards. In exchange, he would give people cash and keep about 30 percent of the charge for himself.

Tajgerdu sold the market to other family members after his arrest in December.

He admitted to fraudulently taking at least $800,000 in food stamp money over two years, ending in December as the owner of the Beaverton Halal Meat Market.

Prosecutors said Tajgerdu would make charges, for example for $125, on food stamp recipients' Oregon Trail Cards then send them to a nearby gas station he also owned and gave them $100 worth of cash.

Tajgerdu tried to blame his food stamp customers for pushing him into committing fraud.

“This problem was started because of people on the benefits,” he told Judge Suzanne Upton. “They are under pressure also in their life, too. You have to know this. They come push us. We didn’t – I didn’t make money from this.”

“I am going to put you in prison,” Upton said. “And I don’t take any pleasure in doing that. But when somebody does things that are good and kind then they deserve that treatment back. But when somebody violates the law, then what they need is justice and justice is not going to be an easy thing for you to take.”

Prosecutors noted Tajgerdu's fraud helped pay for a luxury home and car. Tajgerdu faces 16 years in prison.

Four others were arrested in the case, including Tajgerdu's daughter. Three have already pleaded guilty and the fourth is set for trial in September.

Tajgerdu can cut his time in prison down to seven years if he reimburses the money he stole. He can cut off one year in prison for every $10,000 he pays back.

He's set to be formally sentenced in August.