Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Petra Mini Mart, Inc. v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 6, 2017

PETRA MINI MART, INC., Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Petitioner Petra Mini Mart, Inc. ("Petra") initiated this action seeking review of a Final Agency Decision (the "Decision") entered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service ("USDA"). Petra claims that the Decision was not supported by sufficient evidence. The United States of America, on behalf of the USDA, conversely insists that the Decision is valid, and has accordingly moved for summary judgment on Petra's claim. [12] at 1-2.[1]For the reasons explained below, that motion is granted.

         I. Background[2]

         Petra operated at 2701 East 79th Street in Chicago, and was previously qualified to participate as a retailer in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”). [13] at 2. SNAP is overseen by the Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”). Id. at 1-2.

         In April of 2014, FNS informed Salaymeh that it had evidence suggesting Petra was “trafficking” in SNAP benefits. Id. at 2; see also 7 C.F.R. § 271.2 (defining “trafficking” to mean, inter alia, the “buying, selling, stealing, or otherwise effecting an exchange of SNAP” benefits “for cash or consideration other than eligible food, either directly, indirectly, in complicity or collusion with others, or acting alone.”). FNS subsequently charged Petra with trafficking SNAP benefits, and on August 5, 2014, Petra was permanently disqualified from participating in the SNAP program. [13] at 2. Neither Petra nor Salaymeh ever contested the determination that Petra had been trafficking in SNAP benefits.

         Petra, during the course of its operation, also accumulated over $40, 000 in tickets from the City of Chicago. Id. at 4. As a result of these tickets, Salaymeh could not “afford to stay in business, ” and Jaffar Karakra (“Karakra”), a former Petra employee, “want[ed] to take over.” Id. at 3. To that end, Karakra (not Salaymeh) executed a lease with the owner of Petra's location that began to run in October of 2014. Id. Karakra also registered articles of incorporation for a new business entity (A&S Food Mart #1 or “A&S”) on October 30, 2014, and A&S received its business registration on November 1, 2014. Id. Finally, Karakra sought the licenses required to operate a food or tobacco store in the City of Chicago. Id. Municipal authorities refused to issue these licenses until Karakra assumed financial responsibility for Petra's outstanding tickets. Id. at 4. Karakra agreed, and his understanding with Salaymeh was memorialized in an “affidavit” jointly executed on March 6, 2015. Id. The affidavit provides:

I, Jaffar Karakra SSN . . . certifies [sic] that I did purchase the business Petra Mini Mart, Inc. 2701 E. 27th St., Chicago, IL 60649 from Mr. Ayman Salaymeh. This is also to certify that I will pay all the tickets for the City of Chicago from the purchase price as it was agreed with the City of Chicago to pay $2, 600 per month for 17 months.

Id. at 52. That same month, Petra ceased operations, A&S received its licenses to sell tobacco and food, and A&S began operating at Petra's former location on 79th street. Id. at 5.

         FNS informed Salaymeh in August of 2015, several months after Petra had closed, that it had obtained evidence suggesting that Salaymeh had sold Petra to a former employee, in violation of controlling federal law. Id. at 2; see also 7 U.S.C. § 2021(e)(1) (“In the event any retail food store or wholesale food concern that has been disqualified [from participation in SNAP] is sold or the ownership thereof is otherwise transferred to a purchaser or transferee, the person or persons who sell or otherwise transfer ownership of the retail food store or wholesale food concern shall be subjected to a civil penalty . . . .”); 7 C.F.R. § 278.6 (“In the event any retail food store or wholesale food concern which has been disqualified is sold or the ownership thereof is otherwise transferred to a purchaser or transferee, the person or other legal entity who sells or otherwise transfers ownership of the retail food store or wholesale food concern shall be subjected to and liable for a civil money penalty.”).

         FNS's charge was supported by both the previously-mentioned affidavit of sale and Karakra's lease over Petra's location at 79th street, which began to run in October of 2014-six months prior to Petra's closing in March of 2015. Id. at 2. Based upon this evidence, FNS imposed a $44, 000 transfer-of-ownership-civil-money-penalty against Salaymeh (the “TOCMP”). Id.

         Salaymeh submitted a timely request for administrative review of the TOCMP. Id. at 2-3. He argued that FNS did not have any evidence that he sold Petra to Karakra. Id. Salaymeh additionally insisted that he had simply closed Petra in March 2015, and Karakra had opened a similar store in the same location afterwards. Id. at 3.

         On March 24, 2016, FNS affirmed its finding that Petra was sold and upheld the $44, 000 penalty triggered by the transfer. Id. This Decision was based upon both the affidavit of sale and Petra's leasing history. Id.

         II. Jurisdiction

         Petra initiated this lawsuit under 7 U.S.C. § 2023(a)(13), which provides that if a “store, concern, or State agency feels aggrieved by such final determination, it may obtain judicial review thereof by filing a complaint against the United States in the United States court for the district in which it resides or is engaged in business . . . within thirty days after the date of delivery or service of the final notice of determination upon it, requesting the court to set aside such determination.” The Decision was ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.