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C-store Owner, Manager Charged With Food Stamp Fraud

BOSTON -- The owner of a convenience store in Holyoke, Mass., and a manager there were both charged Tuesday in federal court with conspiracy, food stamp fraud, money laundering and wire fraud relating to their scheme to commit food stamp benefit trafficking.

Kathleen Lamson, 56, of Enfield, Conn., and Jorge Martinez, 39, of Springfield, Mass., were charged in a multi-count indictment with conspiracy, food stamp fraud, engaging in monetary transactions and wire fraud, said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Brian L. Haaser, special agent in charge of the United States Department of Agriculture - Northeast Region and Susan Dukes, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Boston Field Office.

The indictment alleges that Lamson, identified as owner of L&M Market in Holyoke, Mass., and Martinez, the manager of the store, conspired to commit, and did commit, food stamp fraud, wire fraud and other offenses by unlawfully purchasing food stamp benefits for cash at a discounted value and redeeming the full value of the food stamp benefits from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and engaging in monetary transactions to continue the fraud and to avoid detection.

If convicted on these charges, Lamson and Martinez each face up to 20 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture's Office of
Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S.Attorney Michelle L. Dineen Jerrett of Ortiz's Springfield Branch Office.

Among the details alleged in the 24-page indictment:

-- The defendants paid cash for food stamp benefits at the rate of 75 cents on the dollar and then deposited the full cash value of the benefits from the USDA into the store's food stamp account.

-- The defendants made frequent cash withdrawals from the food stamp account to purchase the food stamps of just less than $10,000 at a time to avoid detection.

-- From March 2005 to February 2008, the defendants accepted EBT cards from food stamp recipients wishing to exchange their food stamp benefits for cash, and passed those EBT cards through the store's point-of-sale (POS) terminal, causing the full value of the food stamp benefits to be transferred to L&M Market.

-- The defendants caused more than $1.5 million worth of EBT transactions and food stamp coupons to be transacted. Of that total, roughly $1 million was withdrawn in the form of ATM withdrawals, cash or checks payable to the defendants. At least some of those transactions were allegedly committed to facilitate the commission of fraud.

-- In addition to the cash withdrawals, Lamson on Aug. 20, 2007, wrote a check from the food stamp account for $12,500 to a car dealership as a down payment on a 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup truck purchased by Martinez. On Nov. 8, 2007, Martinez allegedly wrote a check for $11,000 from the food stamp account to himself and on the same day purchased a bank check in the same amount payable to a Honda dealership for a new vehicle.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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