Three women who operated convenience stores in Palmdale and Littlerock are among 17 people charged in a $6 million food stamps scam, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Maria Teresa Ramirez, 37, faces eight counts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud; Yessica Raquel Garay, 37, faces two counts of SNAP fraud; and Maria Magdalena Salgado, aka Maria Magdalena Gonzalez, 54, is charged with seven counts of SNAP fraud. Salgado is Ramirez’s mother.
The women were also charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud another of property and misappropriation of public funds. The charges also include allegations that the women took more than $500,000 through fraud and embezzlement.
They allegedly defrauded the federal government out of an estimated $6 million, officials said.
The other 14 people charged in a criminal complaint are accused of using their SNAP cards to receive cash at the convenient stores where the women worked.
The women allegedly exchanged the SNAP benefits, or food stamps, for cash between 2011 and 2017, officials said. They charged fake SNAP-eligible purchases to benefit cards and collected fees for the transactions, prosecutors allege.
Ramirez owned stores in Palmdale and Littlerock, and Salgado also owned one in Palmdale. Garay worked for Ramirez at her Palmdale store before taking over the business, officials said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, named as a victim in the criminal complaint, investigated the defendants.
The women face up to nine years in prison if convicted as charged.
The other defendants face up to three years in Los Angeles County jail, officials said.
The prosecutor is recommending that bail for the women be set at $275,000 and $20,000 for the other defendants