States Attorney's Office District of Connecticut
|February 25, 2011||
FORMER WETHERSFIELD RESIDENT ADMITS
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that APOLINAR E. COLLADO, also known as “Jose Adames,” “David Martin” and “Polo,” 43, a citizen of the Dominican Republic formerly residing in Wethersfield, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to one count of Food Stamp fraud stemming from an extensive scheme to defraud the federal Food Stamp Program of approximately $1.6. million.
“This defendant operated a long-term scheme to defraud the vitally important Food Stamp program, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working with our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General to investigate and prosecute grocery store owners who engage in this type of fraud,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.
The federal Food Stamp Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households, affording such households the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power. Food Stamp recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an EBT card, which is similar to an ATM card. Food Stamp benefits may be accepted by authorized retailers only in exchange for eligible items. Items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, paper goods and soaps are not eligible for purchase with Food Stamp benefits, and it is a violation of the rules and regulations governing the food stamp program to allow benefits to be used to purchase ineligible items. Food stamp benefits may not lawfully be exchanged for cash under any circumstances. The program is designed so that the total amount of each purchase is electronically transferred to the retailer’s designated bank account.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in December 1996, COLLADO, using the name “Jose Adames,” owned and operated El Campesino Market, a retail grocery store located at 3 Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford. The store was authorized by the Food Stamp Program to accept and redeem Food Stamps. After COLLADO engaged in Food Stamp fraud at the market, he was prosecuted and subsequently convicted in U.S. District Court in Hartford of Food Stamp fraud, tax fraud and immigration offenses. In February 1998, COLLADO was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment and, following his release from prison, he was deported to the Dominican Republic. Also, the El Campesino Market and COLLADO were permanently prohibited from participation in the Food Stamp Program.
COLLADO illegally reentered the United States and, between approximately October 2003 and February 2009, he engaged in a scheme to defraud the Food Stamp Program by operating several different Hartford grocery stores through the use straw owners. At each of the stores, COLLADO knowingly and willfully exchanged, directed, and/or authorized the exchange of food stamps for cash and other ineligible items to his customers. Four of the stores – El Querido Supermarket, El Cerrazo Supermarket, El Ponderoso Supermarket, and Amor Supermarket – operated at various times at the same location, 194 Mather Street in Hartford. Using straw owners, COLLADO also operated Joldy Grocery at 60 Gillete Street and Billy Bong Grocery at 679 Blue Hills Avenue. With the exception of Joldy Grocery, all of the stores were disqualified from the Food Stamp Program on the basis of the fraud and thereafter closed their doors for business. Joldy Grocery was sold in March 2009 to a new owner.
Through this scheme, COLLADO defrauded the Food Stamp Program of approximately $1.6 million.
Judge Bryant has scheduled sentencing for June 6, 2011, at which time COLLADO faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
COLLADO had been detained since January 2009 after his arrest on federal immigration violations. COLLADO subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally reentering the U.S. and, on May 18, 2009, he was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hartford to 20 months of imprisonment. Prior to his incarceration, COLLADO resided in Wethersfield.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, with the assistance of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Deborah R. Slater.
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