Chicago cop among nine indicted in welfare fraud scheme

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

A Chicago police officer is one of nine men from around the Chicago area charged on Nov. 12 in connection with a wide ranging conspiracy to defraud the Federally funded Illinois Women, Infants and Children program.

Hassan “Eric” Abdellatif, a Chicago police officer since 2018, was also charged with two tax offenses for allegedly willfully failing to file two years of corporate tax returns for one of his groceries. He was released on $150,000 bond at a court hearing Nov. 12. He has reportedly  been relieved of his police powers.

The other eight defendant were ordered released on $10,000 bond or less. They are:

Hamdan Hamdan aka Tony, 32, of Chicago, owner of La Villita Food Market in Chicago; Ehab Khraiwish, 27, of Tinley Park, owner of Mercado La Estrella in Elgin; Waleed Khraiwish aka Wally, 34, of Melrose Park, who worked at a convenience store in Melrose Park; Alaa Hamdan, 35, of Chicago, who worked at Supermercado El Grande in Addison; Fortino Hernandez, 38, of Addison, who worked at Supermercado El Grande in Addison; Ersely Arita-Mejia, 39, of Arlington Heights, who worked at Star Mini Market in Mount Prospect; Jehad Khraiwish, 24, of Chicago, who worked at a convenience store in Melrose Park; and Marisol Zavala, 29, of McHenry, who worked at a convenience store in Elgin.

The indictment lists WIC redemptions by the stores between 2010 and 2019 at more than $16 million.

Prosecutors say the stores controlled by Abdellatif and others knowingly allowed customers to provide WIC checks as payment for the purchase of ineligible WIC items, often at inflated prices, and also knowingly allowed customers to exchange WIC checks as payment both before and after the valid time period on the checks.

The scheme additionally involved depositing WIC checks fraudulently redeemed at one store into a bank account associated with another store in order to conceal the volume of sales being conducted with WIC checks at certain stores.

Abdellatif and others withdrew several of the stores from participation in the WIC program, prosecutors allege, to evade detection from the Illinois Department of Human Services regarding the stores’ fraudulent WIC redemptions, then subsequently re-opened those stores under the name of a third party in the same physical location as the withdrawn store. Abdellatif and others allegedly maintained management control of those stores while the third party held “nominal ownership” in the businesses.

Abdellatif, Hamdan and Ehab Khraiwish, along with three other defendants, have a status hearing on Dec. 6.