JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nine Jacksonville residents have been indicted on fraud charges related to SNAP benefits and two of them have also been charged with selling cocaine in exchange for SNAP benefits.
The U.S. Attorney's Office announced that nine people have been indicted for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The indictments in each case allege that the individuals engaged in a pattern of fraud by redeeming SNAP benefits through unauthorized Electronic Benefits Transfers.
The arrests were targeted at three local businesses that the government said were really just shams.
Officials said the suspects set up fake stores at local homes that never sold goods but would exchange drugs for food stamps or SNAP cards.
The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and distribution of cocaine is 20 years in federal prison.
According to police, the fake stores would then charge the federal government for made up products and the government would then wire money into accounts tied to the fake stores.
According to the indictment, between May 2012 and May 2015, Lawaun Dontai Carswell, 35, and Shawntei Walker, 36, stole more than $747,000 in SNAP funds. They also allegedly sold cocaine in exchange for SNAP benefits.