Rich Pedroncelli/2010 AP file photoFour San Francisco residents face charges of defrauding food stamps by buying recipients electronic benefit cards and charging false food purchases on them for reimbursement.

Four San Francisco residents charged with defrauding food stamps program

The District Attorney’s Office has charged four San Francisco residents with defrauding the local food stamps program out of over $480,000.

The charges allege that the four defendants conspired to defraud the program, known as CalFresh Benefits, by soliciting recipients of the benefits into selling their electronic benefit transfer cards for a fraction of the value. The cards allegedly would then be used to charge for false food purchases at Ivy’s Food Co. and then the CalFresh program would reimburse Ivy’s for purchases that never happened.

The owners of Ivy’s, Ivy Lai and Alan Wan, both 55, are charged as co-conspirators in the deception and face 31 felony counts each and further enhancements.

The felony charges include: one count of conspiracy, one count of misappropriation of public funds, 22 CalFresh Benefits fraud, and six counts of money laundering.

If convicted, the two each face 24 years and eight months in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Nelson Tse, 47, is alleged to have been involved as a co-conspirator and is facing felony counts of conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, three counts of CalFresh Benefits fraud, and three misdemeanor counts of CalFresh Benefits fraud and further enhancements.

He faces up to eight years in state prison on the charges.

A fourth defendant, Cam Zenh Mong, 43, was also arrested in connection with the scheme and a charging decision is forthcoming, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Lai, Wan and Tse were scheduled for arraignment today at 1:30 p.m. but that hearing has been postponed until Friday, Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said.

“These conspirators are accused of defrauding a system designed to help the most vulnerable among us,” District Attorney George Gascón said. “Ripping off a government assistance program that helps those who can’t afford to put food on the table is pretty low.”

The arrest comes as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, the San Francisco Human Services Agency, the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations.Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & Courtsfood stampsfraudSan Francisco District Attorney's Office

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