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17 Suspects Charged for $6 Million in Food Stamp Fraud

Three women who run Los Angeles County stores are the main focus of an investigation that led to charges against 17 people who allegedly took part in the misuse of food stamp benefits.

Maria Teresa Ramirez, 37, her 54-year-old mother Maria Magdalena Salgado, and 37-year-old Yessica Raquel Garay each reportedly run different locations of three convenience stores owned by the mother and daughter.

Over a 6-year period beginning in 2011, the three women allegedly afforded some of their customers with cards containing SNAP funds the ability get cash instead of food if they agreed to give some of the money obtained to the store as a fee for the service.

The state of California, in addition to most of the other U.S. states, hands out a plastic ATM-type card to the recipients of aid so that the beneficiaries have easy access for transactions. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also referred to as SNAP funds, in addition to cash balances for financial aid are put on the cards for the amount and type of service that each client is awarded.

The United States Department of Agriculture has claimed that 14 of the people who visit their stores were able to trade their food benefits for cash, and Ramirez, Salgado, and Garay allegedly profited off of the transactions.

It has been alleged that Ramirez, Salgado, and Garay would take items from their stock that were approved by the SNAP program and record them as purchases, but instead issued the money for the cost of the food to the customers and kept a portion for themselves. The total amount of loss that the USDA has claimed they have suffered from the purported illegal activities was estimated at $6 million.

Ramirez has been charged with eight counts, Salgado was charged with seven counts, and Garay is facing two counts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud. All three of the women are additionally accused of conspiracy to defraud another of property and misappropriation of public funds, and taking more than $500,000 through fraud and embezzlement. They could each be imprisoned for up to nine years if found guilty of the allegations.

The 14 customers that have been accused of taking part in the alleged scam are also facing charges for their involvement, and if they are convicted it could result in a sentence of up to three years in jail.

If you or someone you love is suspected of a theft crime, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.