Augusta store named in federal indictment on food stamp fraud

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An Augusta store is named in a federal indictment outlining a conspiracy that siphoned more than $5 million in food stamps and other low-income benefits into personal bank accounts.

Seven defendants are scheduled for arraignment Thursday in Savannah on charges of wire fraud conspiracy, theft of government funds and money laundering conspiracy for an operation alleged to have lasted from February 2009 through June 2011.

The indictment accuses the suspects of setting up stores across Georgia – from Macon to Atlanta – for the purpose of qualifying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which doles out food stamps, and Georgia’s Women, Infant and Children program.

The indictment says the suspects would then barter with SNAP and WIC beneficiaries for cash or non-authorized items and submit those transactions for reimbursement. The reimbursements added up over time; forfeiture claims in the indictment request total almost $114,000 spread over 13 bank accounts, plus a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette, a 2003 Ferrari 360 and a 2005 Maserati Quattroporte.

The defendants are: Sabrina Sesberry; Litricia Allen; Rupert Jones; Jewell Allen; Petrina Barge; Rashella Reed; and Derrick Jamein Robinson.

The most recent indictment lists Jack ‘N’ Jill at 2139 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Augusta as part of the conspiracy. A separate indictment lists Alvina Markes as the CEO of the business and said she, like her alleged co-conspirators, opened “SNAP storefronts themselves and/or recruited straw owners to assist them in furtherance of their scheme to defraud.” Markes pleaded guilty in March and received nine months in federal prison.

The federal indictment charges Markes with exchanging $300 in Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) credits for $180 in cash on Oct. 15, 2010; $100 in benefits for $60 on Oct. 18, 2010; and $200 in benefits for $120 cash on Dec. 15, 2010.


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