The father of a New Jersey deli owner allegedly admitted Tuesday to playing a role in an $888,000 food stamp fraud scheme carried out over six years.
Manuel Venegas, 54, of Newark, pleaded guilty to one count of food stamp fraud for taking part in an $888,000, six-year food stamp fraud scheme with his daughter, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced Tuesday.
His daughter, Maria, pleaded guilty to the same crime in September and faces up to 20 years in prison at her sentencing on January 19.
Venegas worked at his daughter’s store, Jenny’s Deli, between March 2015 and March 2018, and allegedly played a role in the scheme in which store employees would trade Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash.
Authorities say the deli defrauded the federal government out of $573,199.43 while Manuel worked there. Officials opened an investigation into the deli when they noticed an unusually high volume of SNAP benefit transactions.
An undercover agent opened an investigation into the deli, making 20 purchases at the Newark store using SNAP benefits and trading them for cash.
Federal investigators say Manuel and Maria Venegas stole $888,486.89 over more than a six-year period.
Venegas is scheduled to receive his sentence March 6 and could face up to 20 years in prison.
Other store owners and employees have received stiff penalties from the federal government for carrying out similar schemes allowing SNAP users to trade their benefits for cash.
A Ghanian national was sentenced in April to eight months in prison for carrying out a $300,000 food stamp fraud scheme, and an Oregon minimart owner was sentenced to two years behind bars for orchestrating a $189,000 food stamp fraud scheme.