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10 charged with government benefits fraud totaling more than $6M

Sun-Times file photo

A northwest suburban man is the tenth person to be charged this week with defrauding government agencies out of more than $6 million by falsely obtaining benefits to which they were not entitled.

Zuhger Mohammud, 39, of Wood Dale, is accused of defrauding the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which is designed to provide food assistance to indigent pregnant and post-partum women and children under the age of 5, according to a statement from the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Mohammud, who owns several businesses in the Chicago area, is accused of accepting blank WIC checks from customers in exchange for goods that were not authorized by the WIC program.

He redeemed $5.2 million in WIC benefits between 2011 and 2014, despite the fact that he was never an authorized vendor under the program, prosecutors said. He is charged with theft of government property, WIC fraud, continuing a financial crimes enterprise and public aid wire fraud.

“This brazen theft of public funding intended for citizens and families in need will not be tolerated,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in the statement. “We will continue to investigate and aggressively prosecute those individuals who engage in these offensive financial crimes that defraud taxpayers.”

Mohammud’s scheme was uncovered during the same investigation that resulted in charges against nine Chicago residents for government benefits fraud totaling more than $1 million.

The nine others charged were Alette Applewhite, 40; Doris Bell, 66; Helen Davis, 75; Arthur Dorsey Jr., 68; Wanda Goodloe, 41; Tiajuanna Hawthorne, 39; Howard Headd, 78; Ericka Island, 34; and Lorene Loyde, 42, according to a statement from the Chicago Housing Authority.

The charges against the nine people include a variety of schemes, including fraudulently obtaining housing assistance funds from CHA by failing to report income to qualify for housing assistance and getting payments as a landlord in the Housing Choice Voucher program while at the same time securing an HVC that paid part of their rent, according to the statement.

Others allegedly provided false information to the Social Security Administration in order to obtain housing subsidies or support to which they otherwise would not have been entitled.

The charges were filed last week following investigations by the CHA’s Office of the Inspector General in conjunction with a variety of other agencies. The cases will be prosecuted by the Cook County state’s attorney’s Public Corruption/Financial Crimes Unit.

“As an agency that uses taxpayer-supported dollars to provide housing assistance to residents of Chicago, I want to reiterate that CHA will not tolerate any abuse of these resources that support some of our city’s neediest residents,” CHA CEO Eugene Jones Jr. said in the statement.

“I want to remind all of our employees and anyone else who suspects fraud or wrongdoing to contact the CHA OIG hotline,” Jones said.