Husband and wife convenience store owners plead guilty to food stamp program fraud

They allegedly defrauded the U.S. out of $257,979

Husband and wife convenience store owners plead guilty to food stamp program fraud

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Russell Leroy Dotson, Jr., 62, and Maria Luisa Dotson, 65, both of Jacksonville, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and payment of restitution to the United States.

According to court documents, the Dotsons owned and operated Asmarina Food Mart, with two locations in Jacksonville. Upon opening the convenience stores, they applied for and received approval from the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.

After receiving this approval, the Dotsons trained their employees on how to conduct fraudulent transactions with SNAP recipients using their Electronic Benefit Transfer card. The Dotsons instructed their employees to ring up fraudulent transactions to make it appear that SNAP recipients had purchased eligible food products from the store using their EBT cards.

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The employees then gave the SNAP recipients cash representing approximately half of the amount of the fraudulent transaction, while the Dotsons received the remainder of the money. Over approximately 27 months, the Dotsons defrauded the United States out of $257,979.

This case is part of a long-term investigation into SNAP fraud at the two Asmarina Food Mart locations in Jacksonville. To date, 11 others have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced for their roles in this scheme.

Shelly Rowe Sullivan, Teighlor Michelle Wicker, Tracy Lynn Hammock, Shannon Marie Whaley, Denise Diane Taylor, Ormetre Patterson, Cierra Elizabeth White, Laura Lockwood, Shanelle Bryant, Felicia Meadows, and Theresa Marie Paschall were previously sentenced to supervised release and ordered to pay a total of $218,629.67 in restitution to the United States.

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