Woman owes over $14,000 for food stamp fraud.

August 28, 2017

Elida Rocha with her attorney, Timothy Hayes.

Woman owes over $14,000 for food stamp fraud.

#OceanaCountyCourtNews

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — A 38-year-old Hart woman who owes $14,235.13 in restitution pleaded guilty in 27th Circuit Court Monday, Aug. 28 to a felony of food stamp fraud over $1,000.

Elida V. Rocha, of 6827 N. 126th Ave., will be placed on probation for the offense. As part of the plea agreement, Rocha must pay back all of the money she owes within her probationary time period. If she pays it all back before her probation ends, she can then withdraw her plea to the felony and plead to a misdemeanor, said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon.

“You have to successfully complete the probation, and you have to pay the money back,” said Judge Robert D. Springstead.

“I would purchase some non-item foods,” Rocha told the judge.

“She initially went there and separated the non-food items,” said her attorney, Timothy Hayes. However, the Shelby store, La Fortuna Carniceria, allowed her to use her bridge card, which is specifically to be used for food items only, to pay for the non-food items as well.

Store owner Cruz Gonzalez of Shelby and her two daughters were sentenced to prison in federal court and ordered to pay $722,149 in restitution for the food stamp scheme at La Fortuna Carniceria.

Cruz Gonzalez was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $722,149 to the Department of Agriculture by US District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist in Grand Rapids.

Gonzalez’s daughter, Fabiola Garcia, was sentenced to 20 months in prison and also ordered to pay $722,149 in restitution.

Gonzalez and Garcia were two of three conspirators convicted in the conspiracy. The third, Gisela Mendoza, also Gonzalez’s daughter, was sentenced to six months in prison; two months of home detention; and $722,149 in restitution. Both daughters worked at the store.

“They conspired to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, by illegally exchanging SNAP benefits for cash, cell phones, and other ineligible items at La Fortuna Carniceria in Shelby. The total amount of fraud was determined to be $722,149, covering the period of February 2008 through January 2014,” according to US Attorney Patrick Miles.

Rocha’s sentencing is set for Oct. 23 at 9:30 a.m.

Food stamp fraud over $1,000 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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