Oregon businessman sentenced for food-stamp fraud
HILLSBORO — A man who ran a food-stamp fraud scheme out of his two Beaverton businesses has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.
But Washington County Judge Suzanne Upton offered Mahmoud Tajgerdu a deal: For every $10,000 he pays before his restitution hearing in August, she'll take a year off his sentence until it falls to seven years, four months.
Tajgerdu was taken into custody after Friday's hearing. After the judge left the bench, he became indignant, The Oregonian reported.
Tajgerdu brought $35,000 to the courtroom, money the judge did not count as part of the deal. He said he would give nothing more: “I want to go to jail forever,” he said.
His wife approached the prosecutor and law enforcement officers in the room.
“Please help me,” she said, crying. “I have kids.”
During the hearing, prosecutors said the Tajgerdu, 42, lived a lavish lifestyle while bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal assistance program. The theft occurred when Tajgerdu, the owner of a halal meat market and a gas station, rang up phony transactions and charged his customers a fee to illegally exchange their food stamp benefits for cash.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey said the businessman's crime was different from common fraud cases in which the defendant needs money for drugs.
“The defendant had one motivation and one motivation only,” McKey said, “and it was greed.”
Tajgerdu pleaded guilty in March to aggravated first-degree theft and unlawful use of food stamps. Defense attorney Christopher McCormack argued Friday for a sentence of probation.
Tajgerdu told the judge he and his family had earned their fortune. “I work hard every single day, 12 hours a day,” he said.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com