A man from Camden County has been sentenced to 12 months behind bars for his role in a large scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds using fraudulently obtained EBT cards.

51-year-old Luciano Estevez of Camden previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP is administered by the USDA to help low-income individuals and families with the purchase of groceries. SNAP recipients receive EBT cards, similar to a debit card, to make food purchases.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig says Estevez was one of several people who targeted low-income individuals who had, or had access to, EBT cards. The group illegally purchased those cards from people in exchange for cash and controlled substances.

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Honig says, "Two confidential sources working with law enforcement engaged in 43 controlled transactions involving EBT cards totaling more than $40,500, which they exchanged for cash and controlled substances, including prescription opioids."

According to authorities, once the group had those EBT cards, they bought bulk items from large, national chains and then resold those items in, "...small convenience and grocery stores owned or affiliated with the defendants or their associates, resulting in a profit for the defendants."

All told, hundreds of EBT cards were fraudulently obtained and used at superstores which resulted in the misappropriation of nearly $150,000 in government funds, says Honig.

Additionally, cops say Estevez also unlawfully procured an EBT terminal registered to a large store in Philadelphia to use at his small grocery store in Camden, which was not registered as a SNAP merchant. Through this terminal, the scheme netted approximately $110,000 in SNAP funds.

In addition to the prison term, Estevez was sentenced to three years of supervised release and he had been ordered to pay $155,091 in restitution.

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