- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) - A man who fled the United States after pleading guilty in 1994 in a $3.2 million food stamp fraud case has been arrested in Israel and returned to northeast Ohio, according to federal authorities.

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott said 54-year-old Najeh Ottallah was arrested last month in Jerusalem. A hearing is scheduled in federal court in Cleveland on Wednesday.

The former Lakewood man has been wanted on an arrest warrant since 1995, when he fled before his federal court sentencing on three food stamp fraud-related charges, Cleveland.com (https://bit.ly/28LStTC) reported.

Ottallah co-owned the Quincy Eagle Super Market with his brother. The two and their company were accused of illegally redeeming food stamps for cash and other violations.

An August 1994 motion sought to allow Otallah and his wife to travel to Israel for two weeks to visit her family before his impending incarceration. The motion was granted, and Otallah never returned.

“He thought he could evade authorities by running as far as he can,” Elliott said. “At the end of the day, he found how long our reach is.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karrie Howard declined to provide specifics, but said Otallah was found after he “popped up” on the radar of Israeli authorities.

Ottallah’s attorney, Kent Minshall, said “nobody ran him down.” Minshall said Otallah is like others who want to return to the United States where they can get better health care as they get older, even if they have to serve prison time.

“They would rather do a little bit of time or a couple of years instead of spend their whole lives over there,” Minshall said.


Information from: cleveland.com, https://www.cleveland.com

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