ATLANTA -- Federal authorities have charged a Lawrenceville food company owner and his wife with bilking the U.S. government for about $300,000 in reimbursements for international televisions ads that never existed, officials said.
Salwa Foods owner Mushtaq Mistry, 46, and his wife Waheeda Mistry, 42, both of Lawrenceville, were indicted this week by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, false statements and money laundering.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates scorned the couple for taking advantage of a Department of Agriculture program designed to make it more financially feasible for domestic companies to advertise in international markets.
According to Yates, Mushtaq submitted false invoices for marketing expenses his frozen foods company allegedly incurred for ads on a Dubai television network. The federal "Market Access Program" allows food producers to be reimbursed for up to half of costs associated with marketing their product overseas.
Yates said no such ads were ever purchased.
In an attempt to disguise about $300,000, Mushtaq allegedly submitted false invoices from the Dubai television network for reimbursement, then transferred money to companies owned by his wife and generated other checks that were never delivered to the television network.
"Waheeda Mistry simply re-deposited the funds into her companies' accounts and transferred the money back to Salwa Foods," Yates said in a release.
The indictment charges Mushtaq with fifteen counts of wire fraud, three counts of false statements, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 11 counts of money laundering.
His wife faces one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 11 counts of money laundering.
If convicted of all counts, the couple could face decades in prison and fines totalling millions. Each money laundering count alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000, officials said.
The couple have made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell Vineyard, who set their bond at $25,000 each.