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Federal investigation reveals millions in food stamp fraud

Waterbury grocer Raul Marcos Monarca-Gonazalez pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to unlawful use of food stamps and conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud. Investigators estimate the amount of fraud to be in the millions.

According to the press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Monarca’s store, WB Trade Fair Grocery, only stocked enough eligible food items for a maximum of $240,000 in food stamp purchases per year.

However, over the course of 18 months, Monarca’s store processed $3.2 million in food stamp redemptions.

Monarca allowed the purchase of ineligible items, such as cigarettes and paper goods, and redeemed food stamp benefits for cash.

The Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Through the SNAP program, eligible people receive Electronic Benefit Transfer cards – commonly known as food stamps – which can be used for the purchase of authorized goods from approved retailers.

However, in cases such as this, the retailer deducts an amount from the EBT card in exchange for giving the customer a lesser amount in cash which can then be spent without government restrictions.

Monarca was arrested in April of 2016 and could face a fine of $250,000 plus restitution and up to five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2017.

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Marc E. Fitch

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