NEWARK, NJ — On April 11, an Essex County man admitted his role in exchanging $1.9 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program 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. Retail food stores approved for participation in SNAP may sell food in exchange for SNAP benefits but may not exchange SNAP benefits for cash.
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 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 proved guilty in a court of law.
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.