Richmond Woman Charged with Defrauding Tongan Community in $13 Million Stockton-Based International Ponzi Scheme
FRESNO, Calif. — On May 4, 2023, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment, charging Jorge Luis Rivera, 53 of Fresno, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud and attempted wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
The indictment was unsealed following Rivera’s arrest today.
According to court documents, Rivera owned El Ranchito Bakery in Fresno. Beginning in 2005, El Ranchito was authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps. These benefits cannot be exchanged for cash. Between approximately 2011 and August 2018, Rivera directed his employees to exchange SNAP benefits for cash and to accept SNAP benefits for unauthorized items at the request of customers. The loss to the United States is estimated to be over $5 million.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexandre Dempsey and Joseph Barton are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Rivera faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.