The former manager of the Thriftway Food Center in Orono was sentenced Wednesday to two years of probation for illegally using family members’ credit cards to obtain more than $107,000 to keep the store operating.
Mohammad K. Mohmand, 43, of Wayland, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in May to one count of access device fraud. In early 2020, Mohmand used 11 credit cards, authorized by their owners, to purchase goods and operate the former Thriftway, located on Route 2 near the Rangeley Road entrance to the University of Maine.
The contract with the bank that issued the cards, however, said they could only be used for store purchases or refunds for purchases made by customers, and not to keep the doors open.
Falsely processing the $107,000 as “returned funds,” is what made Mohmand’s actions fraud, according to federal prosecutors.
The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Lance Walker, was a joint recommendation from the U.S. Attorney’s office and defense attorney Thimi Mina of Portland. Mohmand paid restitution prior to being sentenced.
Mohmand, a Muslim, was eager to pay off money owed to suppliers and others in January 2020 before his family turned the store over to a previous owner. About two years later, the store closed.
“In Islam, it is considered sinful to die without satisfying one’s debts, or for that matter, to use or sell alcohol, which the store did,” Mina wrote in his sentencing memorandum. “These practices caused internal conflicts, which led [Mohmand] to question his career as a grocery merchant.”
Mohmand was born in 1978 in the Peshawar region of Pakistan, the eldest of six siblings, according to Mina. Mohmand’s father, who was among the few college-educated men in the village, was committed to educating his children and moving his entire family to the U.S.
The father and his eldest son came to the U.S. in 1992 but it would take another eight years before Mohmand’s mother and younger siblings could be reunited with the two men, Mina said. The family settled in Massachusetts and all but his mother have become citizens.
In 2004, at the invitation of a family friend, Mohmand and his family moved to Orono with his father, who assumed ownership of the Orono Thriftway and its lease from another Pakistani immigrant.
Mohmand worked as his father’s store manager, and over the next decade, the business performed reasonably well, and met the large family’s basic needs, the memorandum said. In return, each family member was expected to assist in the business and to support it financially as necessary.
Mohmand wanted to leave the business in 2019 as the store struggled to stay afloat among growing competition, and he tried to reconcile the conventional western business practice of deficit spending and borrowing with his religious tenets, the defense attorney said.
In January 2020, the family of the former owner of the Thriftway agreed to continue its operation, with its debt retained by Mohmand’s father.
“Against the weight of his financial responsibilities to his extended family and dependents, [Mohmand] was determined to make good on the obligations incurred by others on behalf of the store,” Mina said. “Reasonably believing that those obligations were undertaken for the benefit of the business, and under pressure to satisfy the obligations before turning the store over to new ownership within the next 48 hours, [Mohmand committed this crime.]”
Mohmand faced up to 15 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.