A 41-year-old former Merced woman was sentenced Monday to nearly two years in prison for defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as the Food Stamp program.
Suzy Vang Lo and her husband, Michael Chu Lo, pleaded guilty in March to the cash-for-benefits scheme, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday in a news release.
The 21-month sentence was handed Monday in U.S. District Court in Fresno by Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.
Efforts to reach Suzy Vang Lo and Michael Chu Lo by telephone on Monday were not successful.
Federal prosecutors said Suzy Vang Lo was the manager of LV Market in Winton. Her husband "performed many employee functions at the store even though he was not officially employed at the store," officials said.
The pair "conspired" to give SNAP recipients cash in exchange for swiping their benefit cards. During a period of more than three years, the couple provided customers about 69 cents on the dollar for benefits. Customers kept the cash and the Los pocketed the difference, which was wired to a bank account controlled to Suzy Vang Lo, according to prosecutors.
"Michael Chu Lo kept notes at the cash registers to warn customers to remain silent during the transactions to avoid detection, and he attempted to hide large transactions by swiping EBT cards multiple times," prosecutors said Monday.
The food-assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is designed to help low-income people and families purchase food.
"Vendors who engage in SNAP fraud exploit the program’s needy beneficiaries and misuse the substantial funding that taxpayers provide," said Special Agent-in-Charge Lori Chan. "The OIG at USDA works to ensure SNAP funds are used for their intended purpose, feeding families, not for the enrichment of criminal enterprises."
Michael Lo is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25.