The state Office of Inspector General says it has charged three Harrisburg residents in a $25,000 food stamps trafficking scheme whose proceeds were used to buy inventory for their mini-market.
In a statement, Inspector General Bruce R. Beemer’s office said two people, Milciades Mendoza-Jiminez and Marylenny Acosta, allegedly “conspired to buy electronic benefits cards at a discounted rate,” or in exchange for “store credit” and then took the cards to a wholesale club, where they “used their full value to buy bulk inventory for their mini-market.”
Mendoza-Jiminez and Acosta, who are married, were charged with fraudulent traffic in food orders and conspiracy, Beemer’s office said. “In all, during the period from January 2015 to April of 2018, the defendants Mendoza-Jiminez and Acosta” allegedly “trafficked in 88 different EBT cards with a total value of more than $24,000.”
A third person, Ramona Acosta, was “charged with fraudulent traffic in food orders for having” allegedly “used nine EBT cards to buy supplies for a different store during the same period,” Beemer’s office said.
“Our office has made the investigation and prosecution of SNAP trafficking a priority. This kind of crime exploits our most vulnerable citizens and, literally, takes food from the hungry to be sold for illegal profit,” Beemer said in the statement. “Merchants who traffick in SNAP benefits should be on notice – we will find and prosecute them with the full authority of this office. I want to thank the Harrisburg Bureau of Police and Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office for their invaluable help and commitment to fighting this type of crime.”
Mendoza-Jiminez and Marylenny and Ramona Acosta each face third-degree felonies for their respective offenses. Each offense is punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail and a $15,000 fine, Beemer’s office said.
A formal arraignment for Mendoza-Jiminez is scheduled for March 15. Marylenny and Ramona Acosta are each awaiting their own preliminary hearings. The case will be prosecuted by the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.