A Portland man awaiting trial on charges of defrauding the food stamp program and a nutrition program for women and children voluntarily surrendered his bail Wednesday.

The decision by Abdulkareem Daham means he will be held before and during his trial on a charge of conspiring to defraud the federal government, which is scheduled to begin in federal court in Portland next week.

Daham was arrested last week after prosecutors alleged that he was using marijuana in violation the terms of his release while awaiting trial. They also said that they told Daham to enter a substance abuse program, but he attended one session and then didn’t show up again.

Abdulkareem Daham and his brother Ali Ratib Daham were indicted in April and charged with using Ali Ratib Daham’s Forest Avenue store, Ahram Halal Market, in the scheme to defraud the federal food programs. The indictment said that from July 2011 to April 2016, $3.5 million in legitimate and allegedly fraudulent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) transactions – were deposited into accounts set up by Ali Ratib Daham.

In addition, $683,986 from the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program was deposited in another account, also controlled by Ali Ratib Daham. Again, the government alleges that the transactions included both legitimate and fraudulent WIC transactions.

Prosecutors called it one of the largest federal benefit fraud cases in Maine history.

Ali Ratib Daham pleaded guilty in November and faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million when he is sentenced in April. He faced 25 charges, including multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the government, trafficking in federal benefit programs, wire fraud and money laundering, but all but three of the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. The deal also calls for Ali Ratib Daham to pay nearly $1.5 million in restitution, including a down payment of $80,000 prior to sentencing.

The crux of the allegations is that the Dahams allowed customers to exchange some of their federal food benefits for cash, with a portion of the transaction kept by the Dahams.

The market has since reopened under new management.

The deal doesn’t say explicitly what the government will seek in terms of a sentence for Ali Ratib Daham, but it included in his agreement that he wouldn’t appeal any sentence of less than 33 months, a move that usually puts an upper limit on prison time.

Abdulkareem Daham faces a conspiracy charge in the case and the indictment suggests he was not the instigator of the plot, but went along with his brother and supported the scheme while working as a cashier at the store. His trial begins Tuesday.

He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted. He is not a U.S. citizen and could face deportation proceedings if convicted.

Prosecutors last week convinced federal District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby to issue an arrest warrant for Abdulkareem Daham, who had been released to pretrial supervision in May, because he allegedly continued to use marijuana. According to court documents, Abdulkareem Daham tested positive for marijuana use three times and signed written admissions to using marijuana six times since May to address, as prosecutors put it, “alleged pain.”

Wednesday’s bail revocation hearing began with federal Magistrate John Rich asking, through an interpreter, if Abdulkareem Daham had considered surrendering his bail, rather than fighting the revocation motion by prosecutors, with the trial just days away. After Daham and his lawyer, Peter Rodway, discussed the option, he agreed to surrender his bail and prosecutors withdrew their motion.

Rodway said the decision could allow Daham to be sent to a lower-security prison if he’s convicted, since a successful bail revocation by prosecutors usually classifies a prisoner as a greater risk who should be assigned to a higher-security prison.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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