A Ghanian national who pleaded guilty Thursday to conducting nearly $300,000 worth of food stamp fraud may face deportation.
Prosecutors say that Esther Acquaye, 49, who owned Esther’s Fashion Paradise in Worcester, Massachusetts, allowed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to trade their benefits for cash, paying them 50 cents for every SNAP dollar redeemed.
She then pocketed the full value of the SNAP benefits from the federal government.
Acquaye pleaded guilty to several charges, including aiding and abetting food stamp fraud, conspiracy, and trafficking counterfeit goods.
She is expected to be sentenced March 7 and faces prison time and the possibility of deportation because she is a Ghanian national in the U.S. on a green card.
There is no specific sentence that two parties agreed upon in the plea deal, but the federal government asked that Acquaye agree to three years of supervised release following her prison sentence and pay restitution, according to court documents.
Records show that federal investigators began looking into Esther’s Fashion Paradise after they noticed an unusual spike in SNAP benefit redemptions over the span of three months.
In October 2014, Esther’s Fashion Paradise reported $3,489 in SNAP transactions. The store reported $9,059 in transactions the following month, and $12,938 in December 2014.
An undercover investigator found that she had exchanged food stamp benefits for cash on March 9, 2016.
Trafficking food stamp benefits can have serious consequences, as many who have been convicted of the crime have been sentenced to several years behind bars.
A judge sentenced three food stamp fraudsters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October to several months in prison for carrying out a $1.2 million food stamp fraud scheme.
In August, a judge sentenced a Kentucky store owner to 66 months in prison for engaging in $409,000 worth of food stamp fraud.