New Jersey Shopkeeper Pleads Guilty to $1 Million in Food Stamp Fraud

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A New Jersey convenience store owner admitted to fraudulently collecting more than $1 million in food stamp benefits.

Charles Silva, owner of the Checkpoint Mini Mart in Elizabeth, was charged in October after undercover investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that Silva and his employees exchanged cash for food stamp purchases multiple times, NJ Advance Media reported.

Silva pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of theft of government funds under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to court documents.

An undercover officer exchanged food stamps for cash with Silva and his employees 17 times between August 2014 and September 2016, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Newark.

The undercover officer found that during one of his transactions, one of Silva’s employees checked a price list for the illegal exchange, the complaint states.

Investigators recorded $1,588,623 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit transactions at the store between September 2014 and September 2016, higher than any convenience store in the area, the complaint states.

The second highest redeeming store reported 28 percent as many transactions as Checkpoint, according to the complaint.

Silva could face a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, according to the plea deal.

Food stamp fraud cases have cropped up in other places in New Jersey and around the country these past few weeks.

Another New Jersey grocery store owner was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing $1.2 million in a food stamp scheme in October.

Investigators found $700,000 in fraudulent food stamp charges in a South Florida convenience store that same month.