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Ex-grocery store owner admits role in food stamp scheme

September 19, 2018

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The former owner of a small grocery store in New Jersey’s largest city has admitted her role in a food stamps for cash scheme that cheated the government out of more than $885,000.

Maria Teresa Venegas pleaded guilty Tuesday to a fraud count. The 25-year-old Newark woman now faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced in January.

Federal prosecutors Venegas owned Jenny’s Deli in Newark from November 2011 to March 2018. During that time, they say she illegally gave some customers cash in return for their food stamp benefits.

Authorities started probing the store after officials noticed a high volume of food stamp redemptions. They say an undercover agent engaged in roughly 20 “purchases” at the store where the agent exchanged cash for food stamp benefits.

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