State Inspector General files felony charges in trafficking case

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa.– The Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) discovered and disrupted a nearly $25,000 public benefit trafficking scheme in Harrisburg. The OSIG charged three Harrisburg residents. Milciades Mendoza-Jiminez, and Marylenny and Ramona Acosta with trafficking in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In this type of trafficking, merchants buy SNAP benefits cards for pennies on the dollar then use those benefits to buy inventory for their stores.

“Our office has made the investigation and prosecution of SNAP trafficking a priority. This kind of crime exploits our most vulnerable citizens and, literally, takes food from the hungry to be sold for illegal profit,”  said State Inspector General Bruce R. Beemer. “Merchants who traffick in SNAP benefits should be on notice – we will find and prosecute them with the full authority of this office. I want to thank the Harrisburg Bureau of Police and Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office for their invaluable help and commitment to fighting this type of crime.”

According to the Criminal Complaint filed by OSIG agents, two defendants, husband and wife Milciades Jiminez and Marylenny Acosta, were both employed at an area mini market. They conspired to buy electronic benefits cards (EBT) from recipients either at a discounted cash value or in exchange for “store credit.” The defendants then took these cards to an area wholesale club store and used their full value to buy bulk inventory for their mini market.

In all, during the period from January 2015 to April of 2018, the defendants Jiminez and Marylenny Acosta illegally trafficked in 88 different EBT cards with a total value of more than $24,000.

The Defendants were charged with fraudulent traffic in food orders and conspiracy. A third defendant, Ramona Acosta, was also charged with fraudulent traffic in food orders for having illegally used nine EBT cards to buy supplies for a different store during the same period.

Each crime is graded as a felony of the third degree and carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

On January 31, 2019, Defendant Mendoza-Jiminez waived his preliminary hearing, and a formal arraignment is scheduled for March 15, 2019. Defendants Marylenny and Ramona Acosta await a preliminary hearing. The case will be prosecuted by the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.

All persons charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

To report suspected fraud please call the Welfare Fraud Tipline at 1-800-932-0582 or visit the OSIG website at www.osig.pa.gov. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

SOURCE: Officer of Inspector General

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