RICO investigation results in multiple arrests; property seizures at Griffin convenience stores

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Three Griffin residents – including two local business owners – have been arrested following a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) investigation that officials say initially involved 48 criminal charges. The large-scale Thursday morning operation included dozens of agents from the Griffin Police Department and multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

According to Sgt. Gene Mathews, of the GPD Special Investigation Unit – the case agent – the investigation began in September 2016.

“The Special Investigation Unit and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) started a joint investigation on EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) and then it rolled into gambling and involved other criminal activities,” said Lt. Mike Natale, of the GPD Office of the Chief. “Once the EBT investigation rolled into the additional criminal activities, that’s when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), United States Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Georgia Lottery Commission became involved.”

Natale said the GPD and USDA, with assistance from the GBI, OIG and Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday morning executed nine search warrants.

Search warrants were executed simultaneously at two business – Ma & Pa Grocery, located at 1137 Meriwether St., and Griffin Food Mart, located at 888 Meriwether St.

Mathews said additional search warrants were also executed at two residences located at 1147 Meriwether St., and 1597 W. McIntosh Road Apartment 319.

Arrested were Khalid Mirza, the owner of Ma & Pa Grocery, who is facing charges of violating the RICO Act; two counts of financial transaction card fraud, three counts of fraud in obtaining public assistance and three counts of keeping a gambling place.

Uzma Mirza, Khalid Mirza’s wife – known in the community as “Dolly” – was arrested on charges including violating the RICO Act, seven counts of financial transaction card fraud; eight counts of fraud in obtaining public assistance; and three counts of transaction in drug-related objects.

Rajendra Prasad Oza, the owner of Griffin Food Mart, is facing 20 charges including violating the RICO Act; eight counts of financial transaction card fraud; one count of fraud in obtaining public assistance; and 10 counts of fraud in obtaining public assistance.

Mathews said additional arrests are pending.

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