For his role in a fraudulent scheme involving federal food benefits received at two Oxnard markets he ran, a Camarillo man paid over $1.4 million in restitution and will serve time in prison.
Jose Refugio Carbajal, 55, was sentenced to three years in county jail earlier this month. Prosecutors say one year will be spent in detention and the other two would be spent under under monitoring.
Carbajal previously admitted to ten felony charges, including conspiracy, money laundering, identity theft, and public assistance fraud. According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, he paid $1,390,985 in restitution to the US Department of Agriculture for unlawfully obtaining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits at the time of his plea in October. In California, the benefits programme, once known as food stamps, is known as CalFresh.
Carbajal was the owner of Four Way Meat Market, which was located at 508 E. Date St., and Carniceria 4 Caminos, which was located at 1730 First St. After he overcharged the government for things he sold to SNAP users, the USDA terminated his licence to receive SNAP payments at the stores in June 2016.
Carbajal and his wife, Adelina Carbajal, 56, of Camarillo, continued to receive SNAP assistance at both locations despite the restriction for several years. SNAP and CalFresh members receive monthly benefits on debit cards that they can use at participating grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
The Carbajals got around the USDA’s ban by buying point-of-sale gadgets that allowed them to take SNAP payments without being caught. The devices were set up to register as belonging to establishments in Oxnard, Santa Ana, and Texas that had nothing to do with each other. Before officials interfered, Carbajal took nearly $3.8 million in SNAP benefits.
The DA’s fraud team executed search warrants at both locations in August 2019, taking $242,000 in cash and material relevant to the case.
For reconfiguring point-of-sale equipment, two others were convicted of minor charges. Karla Orellana, 41, of Sun Valley, and Antonia Penaloza-Penaloza, 56, of Panorama City, were sentenced to a year of probation and 150 hours of community service, respectively.
Adelina Carbajal was found guilty of a number of crimes. She will be sentenced in Ventura County Superior Court Room 23 at 9 a.m. on Friday.
The case, according to Senior Deputy DA Howard Wise, was a “one-of-a-kind” case of benefit fraud.
“I went all around the country and couldn’t locate anything similar,” Wise added. “It was a true learning experience.” We hope that their punishment and the restitution they must pay will serve as a deterrence to anyone who might consider doing something similar.”
Carbajal’s lawyer could not be reached for comment right away.
The DA’s government fraud unit, the USDA Office of Inspector General, and the Southern California High Tech Task Force all looked at the case.