NEWARK, N.J. -- The former owner of a small grocery store in New Jersey's largest city is headed to prison for her role in a food stamps for cash scheme that cheated the government out of more than $885,000.
Maria Teresa Venegas received a two-year sentence Wednesday and must pay $888,487 in restitution. The Newark woman had pleaded guilty last September to a fraud count.
Federal prosecutors say Venegas owned Jenny's Deli in Newark from November 2011 to March 2018. During that time, she illegally gave some customers cash in return for their food stamp benefits.
Authorities started probing the store after officials noticed a high volume of food stamp redemptions. They say an undercover agent engaged in roughly 20 "purchases" at the store where the agent exchanged cash for food stamp benefits.