WETHERSFIELD WOMAN ADMITS ROLE
$1.6 MILLION FOOD STAMP FRAUD SCHEME
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that LILLIAN ADAMES, 46, of Wethersfield, waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty yesterday before United States Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith in Hartford, to one count of food stamp fraud.
The federal Food Stamp Program, which is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (“SNAP”), is administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and utilizes federal tax dollars to subsidize low-income households to provide them with the opportunity to achieve a more nutritious diet by increasing their food-purchasing power. SNAP recipients purchase eligible food items at retail food stores through the use of an EBT card, which is similar to an ATM card. SNAP 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. SNAP 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, between October 2006 and March 2009, ADAMES illegally exchanged food stamps for cash, and aided and abetted her husband, Apolinar Collado, in the exchange of food stamps for cash, with customers at six small retail grocery stores in Hartford: El Querido Supermarket, El Cerrazzo Supermarket, El Ponderoso Supermarket, and Amor Supermarket, all located at 194 Mather Street at different times; Joldy Grocery, located at 60 Gillette Street; and Billy Bong Grocery, located at 679 Blue Hills Avenue. Each of the six stores were owned by persons who were “paper owners,” in that they were unconnected with the grocery stores and allowed their names to be used for ownership and licensing purposes when requested to do so by Collado and/or ADAMES. The paper owners were members of the community who were not paid for their assistance with regard to the six stores. Collado and ADAMES were the true owners of the six grocery stores.
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, ADAMES and others defrauded the Food Stamp Program of $1,660,103.38.
ADAMES is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on November 29, 2012, at which time ADAMES faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a maximum fine of approximately $3.3 million, and an order of restitution.
On February 25, 2011, Collado pleaded guilty to one count of food stamp fraud. On June 6, 2011, he was sentenced to 57 months of imprisonment.
This matter is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, and 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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