Retailer Convicted in Loan-Fraud Case

California man fined $1.2 million

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- A Pleasanton, Calif., man who owned a chain of California convenience stores will pay $1.2 million in fines and serve 13 months in prison for what the U.S. attorney's office is calling "one of the largest and most extensive loan fraud schemes" in the western United States, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times.

Ashraf "Mike" Ali, 55, led a conspiracy in which his business partners and other store owners would submit false loan applications to Bay Area lenders to obtain more than $4 million in loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, [image-nocss] said Jack Gillund, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Ali and his wife owned or controlled a chain of Fast and Easy convenience stores in Northern and Central California, including in the Bay Area, according to court documents. The case against the couple began in 2004.

The U.S. attorney's office said Ali misrepresented the true identity of the store owners or the source of down payments to qualify for SBA loans for which Ali was ineligible.

Ali was sentenced last week by a federal judge in San Francisco. Twelve others have been convicted and sentenced as a result of a five-year, multi-agency investigation into the scheme, which ran for five years, from 1998 to 2003.

Ali also lost his state license to sell liquor as a result of the investigation.

In November 2003, after state and federal agents raided his convenience stores, Ali told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had only tried to help other entrepreneurs and was a victim of discrimination based on his Pakistani roots.

Ali started his career in 1978 as a clerk at a Circle K convenience store in Healdsburg, Calif. By 2003, he said he owned 26 Fast and Easy stores, a pair of Arby's restaurants and a Taco Bell.

Swanson said Ali had to sell many of his businesses to repay the loans.

Ali's wife, Pleasanton resident Yasmin Ali, 52, was separately convicted of harboring 24 illegal immigrants who worked at the couple's stores, Gillund said. She was sentenced in federal court last week to three year's probation, house arrest, and $100,000 in fines.