Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed criminal charges against Julio Rodriguez, owner of Bethiania’s Fish and Meat Market in Springfield, on Friday over allegations that he participated in Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and food stamp fraud.
Rodriguez was arrested Thursday night. He was charged with Larceny over $250 and Food Stamp Trafficking, in addition to Unlawful Operation of a Gaming Device after Massachusetts State Police allegedly found illegal gaming machines in his store.
Coakley's office alleged that Rodriguez would use customers' EBT cards to enter fraudulent information to make it appear like they had purchased groceries eligible to be paid for by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He then allegedly would give the customers cash in exchange for half the amount charged to their EBT cards.
Rodriguez allegedly was making approximately $30,000 per month in EBT sales during the last few months, with almost two-thirds of the transactions allegedly part of the fraudulent activity.
Rodriguez pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment hearing in Springfield District Court. He was released on his own recognizance after agreeing to surrender his passport.
His next court date is Feb. 18, 2015.