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Criminal illegal immigrant skips trial on $1.5 million food stamp scam

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Removing illegal immigrants who commit crimes from the United States has been a top priority of the Trump administration since taking over in January.

The priority is aimed at catching and removing dangerous criminals like Martin B. Santiago.

After cutting off his ankle monitor just before he was set to go to trial for fraudulently racking up $1.5 million in food stamps, police in Massachusetts are searching for the suspect.

Santiago, a 49-year-old foreign national from the Dominican Republic, failed to appear in court for his criminal trial in Essex Superior Court on Thursday. He is facing charges of selling food stamps and laundering the money from three stores he owns in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

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The Boston Herald reported:

Santiago was set to go before a jury for his alleged involvement in a $1.5 million scheme to fraudulently sell food stamps and launder money through his three stores in Lawrence. State police say Santiago was arrested for the scam in June 2015 and had been wearing an ankle bracelet while awaiting trial after posting $75,000 cash bail.

Authorities are now turning to the public for help finding Santiago, who they describe as a 5-foot, 11-inch Hispanic man weighing about 190 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. State police say Santiago — who is fluent in Spanish and has also gone by Mark Santiago and Martin Billone Santiago — has ties to the Lawrence and Methuen areas.

Source: Screenshot

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — that oversees the food stamp program — became suspicious of Santiago, and his accomplices, when his stores began reporting counter sales at an astronomical rate.

“These are small convenience stores with no (grocery) carriages and a small checkout area,” Assistant District Attorney Philip Mallard told the Eagle Tribune. “It’s hard to get to $100 in groceries without a carriage.”

The USDA indicated that Santiago’s businesses racked up more than $2.19 million in food stamp sales over the course of three years. Investigators added that the biggest giveaway was that their inventory expenses only cost a total of $300,000.

“It’s an astronomical rate of return for a convenience store,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodget told the Eagle Tribune.

The Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section of the Massachusetts State Police Department issued an official “Wanted” warning for Santiago earlier this week.

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If captured, Santiago will face criminal charges of fraudulently laundering money, three counts of food stamp trafficking, and three counts of larceny for exceeding $250.

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