A 29-year-old McHenry woman is among nine people who were charged with participating in a scheme that defrauded millions of dollars from a federal low-income food program, prosecutors said.
Marisol Zavala, 29, of McHenry, and eight other Chicago-area convenience store owners and workers were indicted for allegedly scheming to fraudulently redeem checks from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
Zavala worked at a convenience store in Elgin.
The other eight defendants charged with fraud are Hassan “Eric” Abdellatif, 33, of Chicago, Hamdan “Tony” Hamdan, 32, of Chicago, Ehab Khraiwish, 27, of Tinley Park, Waleed “Wally” Khrawish, 34, of Melrose Park, Alaa Hamdan, 35, of Chicago, Ersely Arita-Mejia, 39, of Arlington Heights, Fortino Hernandez, 38, of Addison and Jehad Khrawish, 24, of Chicago.
The WIC program is a federally funded initiative to provide a nutritious diet to low-income children up to five years of age and to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, authorities say.
Federal prosecutors allege the nine convenience store owners and workers knowingly allowed customers to provide their WIC checks as payment for ineligible items at the stores, often at inflated prices.
Most of the nine stores have redeemed millions of dollars in WIC checks.
Abdellatif was also charged with two tax offenses for failing to file two years of corporate tax returns.
Most of the defendants already made initial federal court appearances in Chicago on Wednesday.