ROCKFORD, Ill. — Three local men were sentenced in federal court Thursday for selling counterfeit clothes, shoes and merchandise in the Rockford area. These sentences resulted from a joint investigation into food-stamp fraud and counterfeit merchandise sales conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, and the Rockford Police Department.
Two brothers, Abdul Hariz, 23, and Mohammad Hariz, 21, of Rockford, each pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to conspiring to sell counterfeit shoes and apparel. According to their plea agreements, they sold counterfeit merchandise at the Fashion Show store in Rockford between Aug. 19 and Dec. 14, 2010.
Mohammad Hamad, 44, was charged in a separate indictment and pleaded guilty March 8 to selling counterfeit goods at the Westside Groceries store in Rockford Oct. 21, 2010. In his plea agreement, Hamad admitted that he was part owner of Westside Groceries. He also admitted that his store employees improperly allowed an individual cooperating with law enforcement officers to use a LINK card (food stamp benefits) to purchase counterfeit shoes.
All three defendants were sentenced Aug. 2 by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Kapala to five months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. During the first five months of their supervised release, each defendant will be placed on home confinement with electronic monitoring. After they complete their home confinement, each defendant must then serve the remaining 31 months of supervised release. All three defendants were ordered to pay full restitution to the victims of their crimes, and to repay the government for the costs incurred in the undercover investigation. Hamad was also sentenced to pay a $5,000 fine.
As a result of the investigation, five other Rockford men were charged in federal court with offenses relating to food stamp fraud (LINK cards). Those five men have pleaded guilty and have already been sentenced.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John G. McKenzie, Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case.