Alexander Vargas, 34, who managed Eddie's Grocery, accepted a plea agreement Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release. Vargas faces up to 10 years in prison, but is likely to serve less, according to a spokesman for the office.
Vargas was a cosigner on the store's account beginning February 2012. Through the year, until early December, he fraudulently redeemed $2.98 million in food stamp benefits, said spokesman Matthew Reilly.
Eddie's Grocery, on the 1500 block of Mount Ephraim Avenue, began participating in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture program popularly known as the food stamp program, in 2007. SNAP recipients receive a card, similar to a debit card, that can be used at terminals at participating retailers.
When Vargas managed the grocery, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, he redeemed some customers' food stamp benefits in exchange for cash, at a rate of about 50 cents on the food stamp dollar.
An undercover law enforcement officer and cooperating witness were able to make this type of exchange five times between June 7 and Oct. 4, 2012, exchanging $1,359.75 in SNAP benefits for $650 in cash, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 5. Vargas agreed to forfeit $22,273 that was taken when he was arrested May 16 and the entry of a forfeiture judgment for $2.98 million, Reilly said.
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