By Ryan Velez
The Root reports that a wealthy Ohio man has been found guilty of accepting more than $8,300 in food stamps and other welfare benefits, including Medicaid, over a two-year period for his suburban family, but there is still a question of exactly how much he will pay for his crime.
The story was originally broke by WKYC, when Pascal Mahvi, who has been dubbed the “Food Stamp Millionaire, was convicted last Friday. The charges were two fraud-related ones based on his acceptance and use of all the welfare benefits that are usually meant to be provided to those in need. While his sentencing is expected to come within the next four to six weeks, prosecutors are already saying they are looking for jail time for the wealthy Geauga County man.
“We’re absolutely going to recommend time behind bars,” Prosecutor James Flaiz said. “I think people have to understand, if you abuse the system that taxpayers have set up to help the poor and you defraud that system, there needs to be consequences.” The prosecutors say that he could face as much as 18 months in prison, as well as being forced to make restitution for any benefits that he did receive. WYKC also points out that Ohio law does suggest probation for low-level, first-time offenders, and Mahvi was convicted on a fifth-degree felony charge for food stamp fraud and a misdemeanor for making false or misleading statements in his Medicaid application. As a result, his exact sentence is uncertain.
The law initially focused on Mahvi last year, when investigators found out that he failed to disclose the entirety of his wealth, including his $800,000 Russell Township home, an in-ground swimming pool, multiple cars, stabled horses and undeveloped property that is tagged at being worth tens of millions of dollars in the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Ironically, Mahvi was claiming that his businesses failed and he needed government support as a result.
Mahvi’s attorney insisted that prosecutors were creating an “illusion of great wealth,” when Mahvi was, in fact, suffering. However, this defense crumbled under revelations that more than $1 million was circulating around several family bank accounts during the time the family was getting food stamps. However, a judge ruled that the records did not give a thorough accounting, leading to Mahvi getting acquitted for two counts of grand theft.