NEWARK — A family that managed a local convenience store is accused of taking thousands of unearned dollars through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by exchanging $5 million in benefits for cash.

Juan Perdomo, 59, and his son Jose, 34, have been charged with SNAP benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The elder Perdomo's wife, Maria Rodriguez, was charged with money laundering conspiracy.

The Perdomo family managed the M&R Supermarket in Newark, which from 2015 through 2018 exchanged more than $5 million in SNAP benefits for cash, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito. Maria Rodriguez is listed as the owner of the store, and the person registered with SNAP, while her husband and son ran the store.

Carpenito said that while stores can sell food in exchange for food, they may not exchange the benefits for cash. Investigators noted a "high volume of snap benefits redemptions at the store," Carpenito said. Undercover agents conducted 11 "purchases" at the store in exchange for cash with Juan or Jose Perdomo, officials said.

Investigators said a store bank account that received the SNAP payments had "numerous cash withdrawals in excess of $10,000," while Jose Perdomo cashed several checks valued at more than $10,000.

The charges of SNAP benefit fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the amount gained or lost. The counts of money laundering carry a penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the value of the property involved.

New Jersey 101.5 did not know Tuesday evneing whether the defendants had an attorney who could speak on their behalf.

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