Bakery owner indicted in Fresno food stamp scheme. SNAP benefits exchanged for cash

A Fresno bakery owner has been arrested for allegedly defrauding the United States out of more than $5 million dollars in food stamps.

Jorge Luis Rivera of Fresno was indicted earlier this month on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempted wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said Tuesday in a statement. The indictment was unsealed following the arrest of the 53-year-old.

According to court documents, Rivera owned El Ranchito Bakery in Fresno, which was authorized in 2005 to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.

These benefits, sometimes referred to as food stamps, cannot be exchanged for cash.

Rivera is accused of directing employees to exchange SNAP benefits for cash or for other unauthorized items at the request of customers. The exchanges allegedly took place over a period of seven years, from 2011 to 2018, and cost the government more than $5 million, according to the Department of Justice.

If convicted, Rivera could get a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the two counts.