Threee Miami Residents Charged in $5 Million Electronic Food Stamp Fraud

(Lawfuel)- R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Luis E. Huttenbach, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Michael E. Yasofsky, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, announced the unsealing of two multi-count Indictments charging three defendants in a $5 million food stamp fraud.

According to the Indictments, defendants Felix Vargas, 40, Guillermina Vargas, 44, both of Miami, and Francisco Vargas, 40, of Miramar, defrauded the federal Food Stamp through the fraudulent redemption of electronic food stamp benefits using EBT cards at two stores, U Meat Market and Friendly Meat Market, both located in Miami. More specifically, defendant Felix Vargas, the owner of U Meat Market, and Guillermina Vargas, his sister, are charged with conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and wire fraud at U Meat Market. They are also charged with several counts of food stamp fraud, and money laundering. Defendant Francisco Vargas, Felix Vargas’s cousin, is the owner of Friendly Meat Market. He is charged with conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and wire fraud, and substantive counts of food stamp fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering at Friendly Meat Market.

According to the charges, between 2003 and 2005, the defendants engaged in a scheme in which they trafficked food stamp benefits by exchanging cash, at a discounted rate, for EBT/food stamp benefits. The defendants then collected the full value of the EBT/food stamp benefits from the United States. In addition, the defendants laundered the EBT/food stamp benefits by cashing or depositing business checks from U Meat Market or Friendly Meat Market, made payable to fictitious vendors, into accounts controlled by the defendants. During the years charged in the Indictment, the defendants laundered a total of approximately $ 4 million.

If convicted of all counts, the defendants a maximum of up to 20 years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy count and each wire fraud count, 5 years’ imprisonment on the food stamp counts, 10 years’ imprisonment as to the money laundering conspiracy and substantive money laundering counts.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigation efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. This case is being prosecuted by AUSA Rosa Rodriguez-Mera.

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