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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Middle District of Florida

For Immediate Release

January 19, 2012

Robert E. O'Neill, United States Attorney

Contact: William Daniels
(813) 274-6388

Tampa Convenience Store Operator Convicted of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm

TAMPA, FL — U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that a federal jury today found Khaldoun Khalil Khawaja (47, Tampa), aka Tony Khawaja, guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Khawaja, who was indicted on August 4, 2011, faces a maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 4, 2012.

According to evidence presented at trial, Khawaja operated several Tampa area convenience stores, including Main Street Groceries, also known as Tony’s Groceries. A law enforcement investigation revealed that Khawaja, who is a convicted felon on probation, was negotiating fraudulently obtained federal income tax refund checks in his office, at the back of the store. Specifically, on May 5, 2011, an undercover officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office went into Khawaja’s office at Main Street Groceries with two spurious Treasury checks that were issued in fictitious persons’ names. During the meeting, Khawaja paid the undercover officer twenty cents on the dollar, or $240 in cash for each of the checks, neither of which were in the undercover officer’s name. While in his office, the undercover officer observed Khawaja at his desk next to a 12–gauge shotgun. During the subsequent execution of a federal search warrant on May 20, 2011, law enforcement agents recovered the same 12–gauge shotgun, shotgun shells, .380 caliber ammunition, and a loaded .9mm semiautomatic Glock handgun at the same location.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Joseph Swanson.

It is another case prosecuted as a part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program – a nationwide, gun–violence reduction strategy led by ATF. United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill, along with Virginia O’Brien, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Tampa Field Division, is coordinating the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort here in the Middle District of Florida in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

This case is part of Operation Rainmaker, a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and various federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, IRS, United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department to combat the filing of false tax returns in the Tampa Bay region.