NEWARK, N.J. – Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - A grocery store owner from Union County, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for stealing more than $1.1 million through a food stamp scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Charles Silva, 33, of Hillside, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to an information charging him with one count of theft of government funds. Judge Chesler imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Sign Up for E-News

Silva was the owner of Checkpoint Mini Mart, a small convenience store in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Checkpoint was authorized to accept Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps). The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Silva admitted he controlled a business bank account to receive the reimbursements for SNAP benefits. He knew that as a SNAP retailer, he was not allowed to exchange food stamps for cash.

From June 2015 through May 2016, he and others under his supervision illegally permitted recipients of SNAP benefits to redeem those benefits at Check Point Mini Mart for cash rather than food. Silva admitted that, in general, he and other employees redeemed SNAP benefits for approximately 30 cents on the dollar. He also admitted that from June 2015 through May 2016, Check Point Mini Mart received through its business account $1,131,063 for illegally redeemed SNAP benefits.

Silva admitted that shortly after receiving the money in the Check Point Mini Mart account, he transferred the money to another account which he used to pay personal expenses.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler ordered Silva to serve three years of supervised released, forfeit $370,000 in criminal proceeds, and pay restitution of $990,000.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins in New York.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank A. Cavanagh of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: John P. McGovern Esq., Newark