The first defendant to stand trial in a federal food stamp fraud case has been found not guilty.
Mpeka Magari was one of 13 people charged last March with selling his government-issued food assistance card to grocers, who illegally converted them to cash.
All but two defendants in two cases have pleaded guilty, or have plans to accept plea bargains, giving up their rights to jury trials. Last week, after five hours of deliberations, a jury found Magari not guilty on two counts of food stamp fraud and two counts of wire fraud in a trial before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten.
No witness testifying at the trial could positively identify Magari as having sold his card, said defense lawyer Michael Shultz.
Wally Gaggo has pleaded guilty to buying cards from several people receiving federal food assistance and turning them into cash. Owners of two Wichita grocery stories also have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. At least four others have been sentenced to time served, two years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution between $700 and $1,700.
The government claims Kansas Food Market and the Alnoor Grocery and Biryani House defrauded the government out of more than $580,000 by handing out half of the benefits in cash and pocketing the rest during some 2,600 transactions.
Another defendant, Sobhi O. Dana, is scheduled for trial next month.