By Connor D. Wolf
A Massachusetts store owner was reportedly given a reduced sentenced with no jail time Tuesday in a food stamp fraud case because he is an immigrant.
Julio Rodriguez used his position owning Bethania’s Fish & Meat Market to trade benefits for cash. He was able to scam the system for an estimated $46,000 between September and December, 2014. Hampden Superior Court Judge Tina S. Page reduced the sentence to not include incarceration so Rodriguez would not be deported. Rodriguez is in the country on a green card.
“Had he been a citizen of the U.S. he would in all likelihood be serving a substantial sentence,” Page said, according to MassLive.com.
Rodriguez allowed recipients to trade their benefits for cash at a discounted rate which the government reimbursed in full. He came from the Dominican Republic in 1999 because of a lack of work and eventually opened his store in 2010. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to trafficking food stamps and agreed to pay $38,000 back to the state.
The court suspended two 364 day jail sentences because he would have been deported if he was incarcerated. He will instead serve a total of five years probation. Assistant Attorney General Erika Anderson and Defense Lawyer Mark Hare both recommended the sentence Friday before Page agreed after considering it over the weekend.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is the main federal agency overseeing the food stamp program. The agency works in coordination with state agencies. It estimates the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014.
Page, Anderson and Hare did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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