Essex County, New Jersey, Man Admits Stealing $1.9 Million in Food Stamp Benefits
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in exchanging $1.9 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Jose Perdomo, 34, of Newark, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of SNAP fraud and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From January 2017 to September 2018, Perdomo was an employee of M&R Supermarket, a small grocery store in Newark. His father, Juan Perdomo, ran the everyday operation of the business since M&R’s opening in 2015.
M&R 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 but may not exchange SNAP benefits for cash.
Every SNAP recipient receives an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card, to use 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 purchase amount is credited to the retailer’s designated bank account.
Law enforcement agents verified the fraudulent exchange of SNAP benefits for cash through the use of an undercover law enforcement agent who engaged in 11 “purchases” at M&R Supermarket, where Jose Perdomo and Juan Perdomo exchanged money for SNAP benefits.
The bank account of M&R Supermarket, where the store receives SNAP payments, showed 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.
In September 2018, Jose Perdomo and Juan Perdomo and were charged by complaint with SNAP benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Perdomos and Rodriguez – Juan’s wife and Jose’s mother – were also charged with money laundering conspiracy. The charges against Juan Perdomo and Rodriguez remain pending, and they are merely accusations; the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The count of SNAP benefit fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain/loss. The count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity carries 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. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 5, 2019.
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 Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael, and IRS - Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Farhat of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
Updated April 11, 2019
Press Release Number: 19-102