Alexander D. Vargas, 35, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with stealing money by purchasing Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) for approximately 50 cents on the dollar at the local grocery store he managed in Camden.
From January of 2012 through December of 2012, Vargas was one of two managers at Eddie’s Grocery Store
Eddie's was authorized to accept SNAP benefits. Stores approved to accept SNAP benefits are authorized to sell food in exchange for food stamp benefits, but they can’t exchange those benefits for cash.
Every food stamp recipient receives an Electronics Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that works the same way as a debit card. Eddie’s Grocery had an account at Sovereign Bank to receive reimbursements for SNAP benefits.
When Eddie’s was approved to participate in the program in 2007, the owner estimated the store would generate receipts of $280,000 annually, but actual reimbursements exceeded that estimate by about $2.8 million in 2012.
Additionally, between June 7, 2012 and Oct. 4, 2012, an undercover officer and a cooperating witness exchanged $1,359.75 in SNAP benefits for $650 cash.
Bank records show Eddie’s withdrew a total of $3,109,776 in 2012, with $2,548,510 in cash withdrawals beginning in February, when Vargas was added as an authorized cosigner on the account. Vargas’s name was on 40 withdrawals totaling $1,869,266.
Vargas was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,791,430 in restitution.