D.A. wins conviction for food stamp scam

Calfresh Photo

Calfresh Photo

VENTURA, California — District Attorney Gregory Totten announced today that on April  l, 2014, Eric Gabriel Suarez (DOB 09/06/84) of Oxnard was sentenced to serve four years in state prison. Suarez pleaded guilty in December 2013 to felony trafficking in food stamp benefits, grand theft, and admitted an excessive taking allegation. He was arrested during a multi-agency crackdown on store owners trafficking in government food assistance benefits. This case was the result of a joint investigation by the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, and the United States Secret Service.

CalFresh and the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provide nutrition assistance benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families. It is illegal for a store owner to redeem these food assistance benefits for cash. Between October 2010 and February 2013, Suarez illegally received $878,059 in EBT benefits at Avenue Mini Market in Ventura.

In addition to the prison sentence, Superior Court Judge Ryan Wright ordered Suarez to pay $755,645 in outstanding restitution. Previously, federal authorities seized and forfeited $113,883 in cash and a minivan seized from Suarez because they were proceeds of his crimes. Nineteen additional persons have been convicted of misusing their EBT benefits by selling them for cash to Suarez or other employees of the Avenue Mini Market in Ventura.

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