San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY 222 E. Weber Ave., Room 202, Stockton, CA
P. O. Box 990, Stockton, CA 95201
T (209) 468-2400 | F (209) 465-0371
TORI VERBER SALAZAR District Attorney Scott A. Fichtner Assistant District Attorney Kristine M. Reed Assistant District Attorney James Bojko Chief Investigator
News from the Office of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2016
CONTACT: Sherri Adams, Chief Deputy District Attorney
T: (209) 468-2497 | E: Sherri.Adams@sjcda.org

SNAP Fraud and Grand Theft Net Guilty Plea

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap) Authorized Retailer, Casa Mexicana Panaderia, And Owner Pleads Guilty To Snap Fraud And Grand Theft

Raquel Alonzo Mejia (MEJIA) owned and operated a small grocery store in Stockton, California. In March 2015, MEJIA signed the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) 252, making the store eligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By signing the forms, MEJIA certified that she had read and reviewed the program rules and regulations. Under the SNAP program, recipients are prohibited from receiving cash for SNAP benefits, may not use the benefits to pay down a store credit, and are only allowed to purchase approved food items. SNAP provides low-income families with nutritious food by allowing those families to purchase eligible food items from approved retail stores. Under this system, SNAP recipients are issued Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, like credit or debit cards, to be used at participating stores. Stores use a point-of-sale machine that debits SNAP recipients' accounts in the amount of the purchase. The USDA then reimburses the store owner.

Beginning in July 2015 through July 2016, agents with the USDA OIG, Stockton Police Department and Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) observed customers exchange their SNAP benefits for cash with MEJIA. Specifically, customer’s swiped their EBT card for an amount such as $100, and MEJIA would give them $50 in cash and keep $50, as a fee, for herself. The entire $100 would be reimbursed and deposited into MEJIA’s account by the USDA.

Based on the entirety of the investigation, search warrants were obtained for the store, and MEJIA’s vehicle. Additionally, MEJIA was arrested.

On October 18, 2016, MEJIA pled guilty to a Felony SNAP fraud, Welfare Institutions Code 10980(g) (2), and a misdemeanor Grand Theft, Penal Code Section 487. MEJIA was also ordered to pay $73,000 in restitution and sentenced to four months county jail.