Couple accused of fraud faces federal judge

Posted at: 04/26/2013 9:34 PM
Updated at: 04/26/2013 10:17 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB 4 On Your Side

Federal officials estimate nationally that nearly $1 billion meant to feed needy families is stolen every single year using food stamp cards.

A Farmington couple was arraigned in federal court in Albuquerque Friday morning - accused of defrauding the government.

The two, Miguel Solis and his wife Ana Montano Solis, are suspected of using their EBT card reader to swipe food stamp cards skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars from the food stamp program.

In many scams, EBT card readers are used like an ATM for free government money.

EBT card holders are rung up as if they were buying food, but the store then gives the card holder half of the money they charged the government and then the store owner  pockets the other half. That’s federal crime.

"Every time someone swipes that card and it is taking money fraudulently from the government or the state of New Mexico, we can charge that federally so each time they swipe that card that is a federal violation," Kevin Abar, with Homeland Security Investigations, said.

Albuquerque’s special agent said he works with the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor fraud.

Investigators say they can also yank businesses out of the EBT program.

"We have over 800 retailers disqualified from using EBT so there are deterrents out there for individuals there are  penalties, not only administrative, but also criminally," Abar said.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 On Your Side is told the case against the Solises will be the first EBT fraud case to be federally prosecuted in New Mexico.