NEWARK, N.J. – A Newark supermarket owner and his son were sentenced to prison for fraudulently exchanging $3.49 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Jose Perdomo, 35, of Newark, was sentenced to 15 months of home detention and five years of probation. His father, Juan Perdomo, 60, of Newark, was sentenced March 3, 2020, to 38 months in prison.

Jose Perdomo pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to one count of SNAP fraud and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. His father previously pleaded guilty to one count of SNAP fraud, one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from SNAP fraud, and one count of aiding in the preparation of a materially false tax return.

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Salas imposed the sentences in Newark federal court.

From October 2015 to September 2018, Juan Perdomo ran M&R Supermarket, a business that was authorized to accept benefits provided by SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp program, according to documents filed in this case and statements made in court.

SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retail food stores approved for participation may sell food in exchange for SNAP benefits, but may not exchange SNAP benefits for cash.

Every SNAP recipient receives an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card, to use to make purchases. Every retailer authorized to accept SNAP benefits has an EBT terminal.

Food purchases are made by swiping the card at the terminal. After the customer enters a PIN, the EBT terminal verifies the PIN, determines whether the customer’s account balance is sufficient to cover the proposed transaction, and informs the retailer whether the transaction should be authorized or denied. The amount of the purchase is deducted electronically from the SNAP benefits reserved for the customer and the purchase amount is credited to the retailer’s designated bank account.

Authorities were able to verify the fraud after an undercover law enforcement agent engaged in 11 “purchases” at M&R Supermarket, where Juan and Jose Perdomo exchanged money for SNAP benefits.

The bank account of M&R Supermarket showed numerous cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000 by Juan Perdomo as well as several cashed checks in excess of $10,000 by Jose Perdomo.

Jose and Juan Perdomo were each ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Juan Perdomo was ordered to pay $400,099 in restitution to the IRS and was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.