NEWARK- An Essex County, New Jersey, couple and their son have been charged for their respective roles in a food stamps fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Juan Perdomo, 59, and his son, Jose Perdomo, 34, both of Newark, are charged by complaint with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Perdomos and Maria Rodriguez, 58, Juan’s wife and Jose’s mother, were also charged with money laundering conspiracy. All three had their initial court appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From October 2015 to the present, the defendants managed M&R Supermarket, a small grocery store in Newark, New Jersey, that was authorized to accept benefits provided by SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retail food stores approved for participation in SNAP may sell food in exchange for SNAP benefits. They may not exchange SNAP benefits for cash. While Juan Perdomo and Jose Perdomo run the store, Maria Rodriguez owns the store and is the person registered with SNAP. According to the complaint, M&R Supermarket exchanged more than $5 million in SNAP benefits for cash between 2015 and 2018.
Every SNAP recipient receives an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card, with which to make purchases. Every retailer authorized to accept SNAP benefits has an EBT terminal. Food purchases are made by swiping the card at the terminal. After the customer enters a Personal Identification Number (PIN), the EBT terminal verifies the PIN, determines whether the customer’s account balance is sufficient to cover the proposed transaction and informs the retailer whether the transaction should be authorized or denied. The amount of the purchase is deducted electronically from the SNAP benefits reserved for the customer and the amount is credited to the retailer’s designated bank account. In addition to the high volume of SNAP benefits redemptions for M&R Supermarket indicating fraud, law enforcement agents verified the fraudulent exchange of SNAP benefits for cash through the use of an agent working in an undercover capacity who engaged in at least 11 “purchases” at M&R Supermarket where Juan Perdomo or Jose Perdomo exchanged money for SNAP benefits.
The complaint also charges Juan Perdomo, Maria Rodriguez, and Jose Perdomo with conspiring to launder monetary instruments. The bank account of M&R Supermarket, where the store receives SNAP payments, shows numerous cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000 by Juan Perdomo and Maria Rodriguez, as well as several cashed checks in excess of $10,000 by Jose Perdomo.
The counts for SNAP benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against Juan Perdomo and Jose Perdomo carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain/loss. The counts of money laundering against all three defendants carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John Tafur; and U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Mark McKevitt, with the investigation leading to today’s charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
The allegations and charges in the complaint are only accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.