The father-and-son operators of two Independence stores have been indicted by a federal grand jury for distributing synthetic marijuana, accepting food stamps as payment for the substance, which is also known as K2.
Haris Nawaz, 23, and his father, 51-year-old Haq Nawaz Choudhry, both of Kansas City, were charged in an eight-count indictment returned under seal Thursday by the grand jury. The indictment was unsealed following their arrests and initial court appearances Friday, and both suspects remain in federal custody pending a hearing Wednesday, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
Choudhry is president of H Habib Enterprises, which owns the Short Stop (Conoco) convenience store and Kern's Liquor, located next door to each other in the 9000 block of U.S. 40 near the Independence-Kansas City border. Those businesses had been part of an October 2013 multi-agency sweep of area convenience stores and other businesses selling K2, which is illegal in Missouri.
The indictment alleges Nawaz and Choudhry participated in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture by accepting federal EBT cards (used to redeem food stamps) in exchange for synthetic marijuana. They also allowed customers to use multiple EBT cards belonging to other individuals to buy K2.
Among the examples cited, Nawaz allegedly sold packages of K2 on two separate occasions to a customer who used three EBT cards each time. Those transactions were fraudulently posted as food sales totaling more than $2,200. The men are charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana and a money-laundering conspiracy. In addition, Nawaz is charged with four counts of aiding and abetting Choudhry to commit wire fraud related to the transfer of food stamps, and Choudhry is charged with one count of aiding and abetting Nawaz to commit wire fraud.
The two men also would be required to forfeit to the government any property derived from proceeds of the alleged offenses, including $52,460.