$3.8 million stolen at Oxnard markets in public assistance fraud scheme; 4 charged

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A California State Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card is seen in a file photo. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A California State Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card is seen in a file photo. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Four people have pleaded not guilty to felony charges in connection to a scheme where more than $3.8 million worth of public assistance benefits was allegedly stolen at food markets in Southern California, prosecutors said.

Jose Refugio Carbajal, Adelina Carbajal, Karla Orellana and Antonia Penaloza-Penaloza face multiple counts including grand theft and money laundering, the Ventura County Star reported Sunday. Attorneys for the four could not be reached for comment.

Markets in Oxnard operated by Jose Carbajal, 54, and Adelina Carbajal, 55, fraudulently accepted the benefits from around July 2016 until August 2019, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors claim Orellana, 42, and Penaloza-Penaloza, 55, helped steal the money by using point-of-sale devices programmed with information belonging to unaffiliated stores in Texas and elsewhere in California.

The scam was uncovered following an investigation by Ventura County authorities and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The department oversees the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families buy food. In California, the program is called CalFresh.

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